“Congress should urgently pass real (comprehensive) immigration reform and give President Trump something he can call ‘a wall,’ even if it’s not really a wall.” That’s how last Saturday’s column ended, and how this one begins.
The president made another pitch for his border wall Tuesday evening in his first nationally televised address from the Oval Office. He said we have a security and humanitarian crisis along our southern border and asked Congress for $5.7 billion for border security, including something he can call a wall, even though he said it will be a steel barrier rather than a concrete wall.
Trump said our southern border is “a pipeline for illegal drugs” and claimed more Americans will die from drug overdoses this year than the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. He added ICE officers have arrested 266,000 criminal aliens in the last two years including 100,000 who have been charged or convicted of criminal assault, 30,000 for sex crimes and 4,000 on murder charges. I haven’t independently verified the president’s numbers.
In the Democrat response to Trump, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York — who voted for a border wall a few years ago along with then-Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama — and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California accused the president of “manufacturing” a border crisis and questioned all of his statistics. The mainstream media called his speech “a Big Lie,” so the battle lines are drawn and 20 percent of the government remains closed.
President Trump will take anything the Democrats give him and call it a wall. The barrier can be made of concrete, steel slat fencing, electronic surveillance technology or anything else, and Trump will call it a wall. However, “Chuck and Nancy” have vowed not to give him his wall. Meanwhile, a small but significant part of the government is shut down and 800,000 federal employees didn’t receive paychecks Friday, which isn’t fair to those employees.
I think we should discuss border security, not walls. After all, who can be against enhanced border security except the naive and misguided open borders/abolish ICE people? They seem to care more about illegal immigrants than they do about their fellow Americans, and are willing to spend $50 billion on foreign aid while denying $5 billion to the president for border security. Moreover, many of those wealthy open borders advocates live in gated communities with walls around their houses.
Trump, who describes himself as a master dealmaker, should be able to negotiate his way out of this border/immigration impasse with the Democrats. He could start by trading legalization (but not citizenship) for “Dreamers” — kids who were brought to the U.S. by their illegal parents — for border security funding. Go for it!
Here are some facts you need to know as border negotiations continue: The U.S.-Mexico border is 1,954 miles long with 654 miles (33 percent) of existing barriers and 178 more miles already approved or under construction. Most of the rest of the U.S.-Mexico border is along the Rio Grande River or across private property in four states: California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Those are the undisputed facts. Let negotiations begin, and the sooner, the better.
CORRECTION: Last Saturday I wrote that 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo, the Guatemalan boy who died recently in U.S. custody, was airlifted to the nearest hospital after becoming critically ill at a Border Patrol holding facility in Alamagordo, N.M. He wasn’t airlifted; rather, an ambulance rushed him to the local hospital, where he died. I regret the error.
Retired U.S. Foreign Service officer Guy W. Farmer follows immigration issues closely.