On Dec. 11, President Trump said he would be “proud to shut down the government.”
That’s an important boast to remember a month later, as the government shutdown approaches its fourth week. And as sure as the president claimed he’d accept responsibility for the shutdown then, he’s avoiding any and all responsibility for it now. Most recently, he stormed out of an Oval Office meeting with legislators after they refused to accept his demands.
The $5.7 billion chunk of funding the president demands for his border wall is the reason for the shutdown. Much like any other Trump product, the wall is expensive, ineffective, and primarily meant to gratify its champion’s ego. It’s also not worth the pain that the shutdown is causing federal workers and contractors across the country.
The president claims he wants a wall to stop drugs and dangerous criminals from crossing over the southern border. This argument, however, rests more in his prejudices and xenophobia than it does in fact. Most drugs enter our country through legal points of entry rather than across land.
A physical barrier also won’t fix visa overstays – a more urgent immigration challenge than border crossings, which have been decreasing for years. Ignoring its ineffectiveness, the wall itself is also completely impractical, given the wildly varying terrain and ownership of land along the almost 2,000-mile border.
There is also no “security crisis” to speak of on the southern border. The vast majority of those who are coming to our country via migration from the south are among the most vulnerable people in the world: parents and children feeling extreme violence and poverty in Central America, seeking only opportunity and safety in a new land. The only humanitarian crisis is that which has been wrought by this administration’s draconian immigration policies, from children detained away from their parents to restrictive rules for asylum-seekers and the rescinding of DACA to historically low refugee admissions.
The president and his enablers in Congress – chief among them Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who could easily bring up the exact same no-wall funding package that the Senate already passed in December – can blame the Democrats for the shutdown all they want. But the simple calculus is that the Republicans have demonstrably chosen to make the wall their top priority above all other functions of the U.S. government. Otherwise, there would be no reason not to re-open the government and return to normalcy now, and continue the border security policy discussion as a separate item.
What happens next remains to be seen. As he headed to the southern border, the president said he would “maybe definitely” consider declaring a national emergency to force his unwanted policy on the American people. This opens up a host of new questions, not least of all where he would re-appropriate $5.7 billion from and how such an audacious executive overreach would fare in court. In the meantime, though, the shutdown continues to deprive federal workers and contractors of their paychecks and the American people of an increasing number of the services that their government provides.
The craziness of these times is almost enough to make one nostalgic for the days of the campaign trail, when then-candidate Trump insisted Mexico would foot the bill for his vanity project. Unfortunately, that – like everything else about the wall, and our current situation – was based on little more than foolishness and falsehood.
Copyright 2019 Graham West, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Graham West is the Communications Director for Truman Center for National Policy and Truman National Security Project, though views expressed here are his own. You can reach West at [email protected]