Trump Probably Could’ve Gotten His Wall Easy, If He Hadn’t Made It Into Such A Symbol And If He’d Backed Off On His “Immigrants Are Coming To Kill Us” Anecdotes, Which Took Up 1/4 Of His Recent Speech To The Nation…
He also could’ve started a dialogue that would’ve almost certainly caused major rifts within the Democratic Party.
But pulling that off would’ve required finesse, and Trump doesn’t operate like that. And we’re not just talking about his turning down the “DACA for wall” deal that he’d originally struck with Democrats.
One of the things that’s been somewhat lost in all the mudslinging is that there are two separate challenges at the Southern Border that are being deliberately conflated for political purposes, but are very different.
- People sneaking into the country across the Southern Border. Mostly younger people looking for work. This was the primary illegal immigration issue for decades, and has been addressed piecemeal by government funding including the construction of some walls and fences. But the number of people attempting to enter the U.S. this way has been consistently declining. (Nor do most drugs come in this way.)
- People presenting themselves at ports of entry and applying for asylum on the basis of dangerous conditions for them in their home countries. The number of people attempting to enter the country this way has been rapidly increasing. (Most drugs come in through border crossings—Democrats say they would certainly support more technology and agents to better search vehicles.)
More walls (maybe) stop the people trying to sneak into the country illegally, but there are fewer of them. More walls (definitely) do nothing to reduce the number of asylum seekers, and their numbers are growing.
So Trump could say “look, we need to get past the wall because asylum reform is even a bigger problem right now”. Which it is absolutely for him because that’s what’s led to the family separation and child detention center abominations.
Focusing on asylum law reform would also almost assuredly cause major rifts within the Democratic Party, because there would be so many opposing views and disputes from so many wings of the party on how to regulate the number of asylum seekers, and procedures involving refugees. You’d get Democrats turning on each other like nobody’s business, with far fewer rifts on the Republican side.
As Ross Douthat (who we’re usually not that big a fan of) points out in a fascinating opinion piece in the New York Times, Trump’s approach to the wall in that context could be:
“15 years of increased spending on border security — walls and fencing and other barriers very much included — has played a big role in reducing the old kind of illegal immigration, in which single young men cross the border looking for work. My proposed wall, really an expansion of steel fencing, would build on this success, he could have said, and build on policies that Democrats once voted for, in order to make sure the old rates of illegal immigration don’t come back.”
And he probably could have gotten it.
But we’re way past that, because it’s too big a symbol. As Washington Post National Security reporter Nick Miroff Tweets:
“This border security debate did not begin with a sober, data-driven proposal for bollard fence modernization & expansion into vulnerable areas. It began with irrational, emotional battle cry.”
So much so that Trump makes a point of making a show of storming out of a meeting with Democratic leaders because they won’t talk wall.
And perhaps more significant is a sit down with Republicans to make sure they hold the line on the President’s demands, even though they just voted before Christmas to set the wall aside in order to keep the government open. Trump went out of his way to praise Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. But look at who’s (again) conspicuously missing from the group of Republican leaders who addressed the media after the event…
Trump again referenced the possibility of invoking emergency powers to get his wall built, saying “I have the absolute right to do national emergency if I want”. Here’s a clip of him explaining the circumstances that might spur him to do that:
Let’s not lose sight of what the President just said: the national emergency will be if he can’t make a deal with “people that are unreasonable”; if Democrats don’t do as he commands. Trump heads to Texas today, to tour the border.
So now it’s just a game of chicken, with authoritarian overtones.