In an impromptu animated speech from the Rose Garden, President Trump continued his streak of fanatical claims about his beloved wall. Moving on from lengthy rambling about how “Mexico will foot the bill,” and building a “human wall, if necessary,” Trump played his final card: declaring a national emergency. It’s a constitutionally questionable move—and one that comes with an $8 billion price tag.
With this latest anger-fueled outburst par for the course from the White House, it’s no surprise that a majority of millennials do not agree with how Trump handles immigration. Considering that millennials are the largest voting bloc for the 2020 election, Trump needs our support—so he should consider what we want.
Millennials are both the largest living generation, and the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in American history. In 2016, according to the Census Bureau, 39 percent of foreign-born U.S. citizens and 48 percent of foreign-born non-citizens were between the ages of 25 and 44. And roughly one in five millennials identify as Latino, while 14 percent are black and seven percent are Asian.
Given this diversity, it’s not surprising that millennials have dramatically different views on immigration compared to Baby Boomers—who are more ethnically homogeneous. Though the border wall isn’t particularly popular with the American people at large, it’s even less popular with young voters: 77 percent of millennials under 30 oppose Trump’s plans.
Still, regardless of political persuasion, nearly all Americans recognize the broken state of our immigration system. Yet millennials have identified the correct solution, and largely agree that the fix isn’t a wall, but, rather, effective changes in policy.
Trump should consider enacting stricter visa overstay policies, as right now, many people come to the U.S. on temporary papers but don’t leave when they expire. Rather than treating this as a priority, Trump insists on building a concrete wall, or “artistically designed steel slats” that will in no way, shape, or form solve the issue of people staying longer than their agreement. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reported that 701,990 foreigners overstayed their visas in 2017, and there is an echoing silence on how to address this faulty aspect of our immigration system. This change would not cost $5 billion at the onset like a wall, nor would it come with the same political cost.
With the harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric Trump has used since taking office, there’s a risk that many young voters will turn their back on him and, subsequently, the Republican Party. If he wants to gain the millennial vote, he must reorganize his priorities and recognize that existing immigration policies, if mended, could move us as a country toward a more effective and inclusive system.
If a Democratic candidate in 2020 addresses millennial concerns, it’s likely that more millenials will actually turn up to the polls. And if that happens, Trump—along with his border wall agenda—might be in deep trouble. When it comes to immigration, fair and safe inclusion of outsiders is a priority for my generation, and it should be. So even a 30-foot, state-of-the-art wall won’t protect Trump in 2020 from the wave of discontent amongst millennials who view his immigration policies as driven by nationalism and xenophobia instead of inclusion and freedom.
Millennials aren’t jumping on the border wall bandwagon in hordes, so Trump has to redirect course, or face those of us who will not go silently into the night.