“We are giving Republicans the opportunity to take yes for an answer,” said U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Our president is a man very prone to hyperbole, exaggeration and yes, the more than occasional outright falsehood. He is first and foremost a marketeer and salesman, and whether we like it or not, after more than four decades in the public eye, he is unlikely to change those stripes.
And with his proposed “Border Wall” with Mexico, he has a signature campaign issue/promise he views as critical towards his re-election, supported by millions of Americans, and in many ways a nation divided by a chasm much deeper and taller than what the President is now actually proposing.
Trump’s budget request of $5.7 billion however is not simply for the construction of a wall, though it would partially fund 200 miles of such a barrier, 600 miles of fencing and vehicle barriers already exist along our U.S./Mexico border, stretching from the Pacific Ocean just off the coast of Tijuana, Mexico to Yuma, Arizona. The types of structure vary, but even the President has come to realize that his original vision of a 50-foot concrete barrier, with significant underground roots to block tunneling, extending for 2000 miles is both impractical, and in some respects impossible.
And given that last year Congress spent nearly $4.5 trillion (a trillion is one-thousand billion, or one million-million), including a deficit of one trillion, less than $6-billion is spit in the Pacific Ocean. It is also a trifle compared to the waste built into the original Affordable Care Act of 2010. Yes, there are better and more critical places in greater need of that kind of infrastructure spend, but this President also understands the stakes, what this symbol means to his base, and despite his recently agreeing to allow government to re-open, he is much more likely to declare a national emergency than he is going to cave on this.
Our Texas/Mexico border is largely defined by the Rio Grande River, and the placement of a wall, due to the cavernous terrain, would need to be nearly a mile inward, on the U.S. side of the border, across predominantly privately owned ranch land.
The bulk of the current 600 miles of existing fencing and barriers in California, New Mexico and Arizona were completed during the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, supported with more than $6 billion in funding by Congress when controlled by both Democrats and Republicans. The Secure Fence Act of 2006 followed the recommendations of the U.S. Border Patrol and the then department of Immigration and Naturalization, now Homeland Security.
Trump’s budget request includes thousands of new border agents, hundreds of new judges for immigration courts and for hearing asylum requests, hundreds of millions in humanitarian aid for refugees and those seeking asylum, and hardening those existing border barriers, as well as giving him a span of wall to point to and stand in front of for photo opportunities come 2020.
I say let him have his wall. And I also suggest to congressional Democratic Party leadership that to end this Mexican Standoff, make yours a big ask, perhaps even start with a bluff.
Consider the following BIG asks:
1. A timeline, penalties and including getting in line for a path to citizenship for the nearly 800,000 DACA recipients, brought into this nation as infants or toddlers, without making a choice of their own.
2. Universal gun sale background checks, expanded to include online, private and gun show sales, a loophole in current law large enough to drive a tractor trailer through (loaded to the gills).
3. Revise the process, and codify it, of unescorted or minor-aged children entering any U.S. port of entry or illegally crossing the border, as it relates to re-connecting them with their families.
I will support your steel barrier, slats or border wall Mr. President. But after the construction starts, please get off Twitter, hire and keep some good folks who understand all this better than you do and do what a President is supposed to do — lead. Tweeting and screaming aren’t leading, and I am in no way suggesting that Senator Schumer or Speaker Pelosi are doing much better on the other side of the aisle. But I am suggesting that we all deserve much better than we are getting out of Washington, D.C., Americans, Mexicans and immigrants alike.