I wrote this yesterday while watching the House-Senate Conference Committee meet to discuss a border spending package that might keep the government open after February 15 (and avoid a disastrous presidential “national emergency” declaration to build a border wall).
The gist: border security isn’t “solved,” but what’s needed now is adjustments, not a sweeping, pharaonic project like a border wall. If Congress is going to send a bill to the president with $5.7 billion in new border-security spending, there are so many things that the money could be better spent on. I list some in this commentary that WOLA posted today.
And what about a wall? I think this is one of the clearest ways I’ve put it so far:
Trump is pushing for a “border wall,” or at least steel fencing—354 miles of which already exists along the border. Fences have a purpose: they slow down border-crossers for a few minutes. That doesn’t matter if the border-crosser is an asylum seeker who simply wants to climb over and get apprehended by U.S. authorities (perhaps after being turned away from an overwhelmed port of entry). It also doesn’t matter in rural areas, where a few-minute head start makes little difference since populated areas and main roads are hours’ walk away. Meanwhile, most densely populated areas along the border now have high pedestrian fencing.
In a normal presidential administration, we’d have a rational conversation about areas along the border where law enforcement professionals might say “some more barrier there would make my job easier.” Then, there would be orderly discussions with border communities, in which all stakeholders (property owners, Native American communities, local government, businesses, environmental organizations, migrant rights advocates) work out the design and placement.
But we’re not in a normal administration. Instead, this president’s rhetoric has made “the wall,” in the words of New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie, “a lasting reminder of the white racial hostility surging through this moment in American history.” We cannot support building even a mile of new barrier under these circumstances—denying a voice to border communities and characterizing the “wall” as a means to keep out “rapists” and “animals” from Latin America.