As the federal government plans to divert an additional $7.2 billion from the military budget for the construction of President Trump’s promised border wall, and tens of thousands of asylum seekers from Central America, the Caribbean and other regions are stranded throughout the U.S.-Mexico border, CNN moderators failed to question Democratic presidential candidates on border and immigration issues. We speak to Julio Ricardo Varela, co-host of the Latinx political podcast “In the Thick” and founder of Latino Rebels. “Anyone who thinks that a wall is going to protect us, the statistics aren’t there. … But that is what the American people are led to believe,” Varela says. “The only way you fight against this is that you challenge that propaganda, because that is what it’s becoming. It has become propaganda. And political journalists need to do a better job in challenging what the president says.”
AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you about the backdrop of this debate coming as, speaking about costs, you have the latest news about the wall, the Trump administration planning to divert an additional $7.2 billion from the military budget for the construction of Trump’s promised border wall, bringing the total amount allocated to wall construction to over $18 billion. Julio?
JULIO RICARDO VARELA: I mean, you know, we all said it. When he went — when Trump went down that escalator in 2016 and he said what he said, those anti-Mexican comments that really like just struck at the Latinx community in this country, we all knew that this campaign was based on fear and on this — you know, this misperception of the other invading this country.
This whole wall talk, in the end, is just a diversion. It has created sort of a split in this country. It is based on lies and misinformation. And anyone who thinks that a wall is going to protect us, the statistics aren’t there. This is not the way you approach it. But that is what the American people are led to believe. And I just find it to be insulting to — what he has done over the last couple years.
And the only way you fight against this is that you challenge that propaganda, because that is what it’s becoming. It has become propaganda. And political journalists need to do a better job in challenging what the president says. And I hope that this election cycle will begin to look into this and we become journalists that say, “You know what? This is what authoritarianism looks like.” And that, I mean, I don’t say those words lightly. You know, I am a Latin American. I am a Puerto Rican. Let’s not get into the issue that no one even mentioned the earthquakes that are happening in Puerto Rico, even as a mention during climate change yesterday. And we’re talking about Democrats. So, there has to be a better way. I think journalists have to look at this election in a much more critical light. And that doesn’t make you less of an American. That makes you an American journalist.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Julio Ricardo Varela, we’re going to break and then come back to our discussion, co-host of In the Thick political podcast, founder of Latino Rebels. We’ll be back in a moment.