What’s all the fuss about in D.C.? It isn’t about a wall, although a physical barrier on the southern border has become the symbol of the divide between President Trump, who ran on an “America First” immigration policy, and the Democrats, who for some reason have adopted the Paul Ryan position that supporting limitations on immigration is only a theoretical exercise.
The Democrats may “win” the shutdown fight but at what cost to the country? President Trump has negotiated so poorly that if Pelosi and Schumer agree to give him $2 billion for border security he’ll claim it as a victory.
You and I could do a lot with $2 billion, but the federal government can’t. But it would be a start, and an indication that the objective of the Secure Fence Act of 2006 would finally be put into practice.
That law required building approximately 700 miles of double-fencing along the border with Mexico where illegal crossings are frequent. It was passed in 2006 with genuine bi-partisan support. It sailed through the Senate 80-19 with Schumer’s vote.
In 2007, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican from Texas, pushed through an amendment that gave “discretion” to the DHS Secretary on what type of fencing could be built. The result was that very little double-fencing was built and most of the area that was supposed to be secured could still be easily traversed.
There are some areas not covered in the Secure Fence Act which Border Patrol says needs new barriers. Congress should work with DHS to address that need. However, the real fight now, as Mickey Kaus has pointed out, is whether or not President Trump can build proper fencing in areas in which ineffective barriers already exist.
One would think after 22 years NumbersUSA would be delighted to have D.C. come to a standstill in a fight over immigration policy. The problem for us is that this really isn’t an immigration fight, though the outcome does have profound implications for how President Trump implements immigration policy going forward. While we recognize the need for physical barriers on high traffic border areas, “the wall” isn’t our biggest priority.
If the President “wins” the shutdown fight Republicans shouldn’t pat themselves on the back. They should be ashamed of how poorly they delivered on immigration reform when they had full control.
If guided by sanity, Democrats would be excoriating the President for asking for so little. They would also demand asylum reform, mandatory E-Verify, and changes to the legal immigration system to meet the concerns of the American worker. They would demand the Republicans repudiate the Paul Ryan approach to immigration policy. Instead, the Democrats have taken up his mantle.
This fight doesn’t come down to whether or not walls are effective. Who would even argue over such nonsense? What it comes down to is whether or not the government of the United States will accede to the demands of the American people. And that question will remain despite who ends up “winning” the shutdown.
ERIC RUARK is the Director of Research for NumbersUSA
Updated: Fri, Jan 25th 2019 @ 8:18am EST