Blocking the Wall

Feb 06, 2019

The following was addressed to the author of the Jan. 23 Commentary (“Build the Wall and It Will Work – Just Look at Human History”).

Dear S. Fox:

Thank you for your opinion on the border wall and the reminder that the president was elected and promised to build it. Mr. Trump promised a lot of things, in fact, that he hasn’t done, and it would be refreshing to hear conservatives agitate for replacing Obamacare with low-cost “insurance for everyone,” for raising taxes on the rich, upholding clean air and clean water standards or seeking a trillion dollars for infrastructure.

It does you no credit to attack people’s intelligence, and history has not been kind to all walls and physical barriers (see Troy, the Maginot Line). We can agree to disagree on the merits of the wall, for which there are valid concerns.

It can be acknowledged that a 2,000-mile wall is an excessive proposal. It will disturb wildlife migrations. It will require extensive eminent domain excesses. Despite your assurances, we don’t actually know how effective it would be. Immigrants who walk hundreds of miles, cross harsh deserts by foot, who routinely risk death seem unlikely to be daunted by a wall. Recent border video shows immigrants using a ladder to breach walls already in place. Tunnels have been dug beneath border walls. Experience has shown that money would be more effectively spent expanding the capacity of the overwhelmed INS systems that deal with immigration so that deportations can be processed more quickly, thus preventing apprehended immigrants from blending into the population.

Border crossings under Obama were reduced when more aggressive measures were made to move cases along, thus discouraging many from crossing. As regards to drugs, these come in at ports in containers and in trucks through checkpoints, and a wall won’t stop them.

You state that the Democrats “vindictively declined to help the party in power correct long-standing border control issues.” That is a slanted view, born of partisan myopia. Did you know that despite the unpopularity of the wall among their constituents, Democrats offered last February to fund the wall in exchange for Trump putting DACA immigrants on a path to eventual citizenship? This is what is known as a compromise.

Compromise is as old as the republic. Even as a minority a political party may exercise enough power to make deals. If the minority party simply acquiesced to everything you wanted, wouldn’t that be great? Well, you couldn’t get everything you want, even with your guy as president and a majority in both chambers. Despite his vaunted deal-making prowess, Trump made a decision to reject the compromise: no DACA, no wall. You have to accept that. Obama’s DACA program was a popular one, but since Trump has no political future without pleasing a narrow and unforgiving constituency, I’m sure the calculation he made was that he would be brought to heel over DACA by the pundits on the right, and he was unwilling to face down the clamor. The wall was not the priority. Politics won.

As you say, “liberals detest the president so much that they now choose to expend whatever energy they can to derail Trump and his agenda.” On the other hand, Trump is also hamstrung and obstructed by the unremitting groupthink of the right. The impossible standards they place on the president to live up to his no-compromise, no-holds-barred bluster prevent him from accomplishing anything much. If you want anti-Trump vindictiveness, just read Anne Coulter’s Twitter feed.

Many are tired of the unseemly and unrelenting border fracas. The spectacle of Trump’s no-compromise border policies and the caging of children made him and his administration’s behavior toward immigrants a pain point for a good many Americans of conscience. People are convinced that the wall is less about security and more about xenophobic retribution symbolized by a daunting yet questionably effective concrete and steel edifice. There is a sense that an intractable fixation on demagogical blustering and recrimination against desperate people fleeing misery is a bit overwrought.

This is a nation that prides itself on a beautiful Statue of Liberty welcoming the poor huddled masses. A wall seems to belie those hallowed words. This is not to deny the ongoing immigration crisis, but the shouty rhetoric that eschews debate and ignores any perspective other than “Build the Wall!” has gotten old. It strains the nerves. Day after day on TV, on social media, there is the same anger, the same red-faced rants. Democrats now comprise a majority in the House and, as our representatives, would like to have a debate in Congress over what constitutes the most effective and rational approach to border security. They brought their case to the people, and the people have spoken.

Therefore, despite your objections, these are “the educated and deliberative problem solvers we expect.” As once they “looked upon border security favorably,” they still do. They never stopped. Maybe it escaped your attention due to lack of grandstanding and tweeting, but during the Obama administration border security was handled rather aggressively. Now it’s time to resume that task, very likely without a wall.

The president was painted into a corner on that by his own choice to reject a deal. The shutdown failed. He could have had a wall. He doesn’t. If anyone is vindictive, it’s the man who shut down the government to place the onus of his inability to deliver on federal employees. So then, how about those other promises?

T. Galli




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