Party leaders should listen to border constituents
Would the bluest state in the nation want to take advice on how best to secure Boston Harbor if it was offered by politicians 1,700 miles away in landlocked Oklahoma? Or would a cardiologist want to take advice from a podiatrist on open-heart surgery?
Now, plenty of reasonable people post “No Trespassing” signs on the perimeters of their private property, no doubt including many of the people who oppose Trump’s proposed border wall. However, it seems unlikely that these folks expect signs or even fences to stop everyone whom they’d like to keep out – or perhaps more precisely everyone whom they’d simply prefer knock and obtain permission prior to entering. And that’s not the point.
Rather, the purpose of posting a “No Trespassing” sign is the announcement of a policy: one must obtain permission prior to coming onto these premises as it is unlawful to do otherwise, and anyone found here without authorization is subject to arrest, removal, and prosecution.
Similarly, most of the Americans who support the wall don’t see it as a silver bullet. For example, they probably wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if ladder-rental businesses sprung up all over the other side of the wall shortly after it was built. Moreover, they seem to understand there are plenty of people in the U.S. from many different countries who flew in and overstayed their visas rather than entering by foot. Just like they seem to know that thousands of tons of drugs enter the country on a regular basis through subterranean tunnels and submarines.
So, the argument about “the wall” is really more about what kind of policy the U.S.A. will announce at its southern border than how best to go about actually enforcing customs and immigration law. This is in fact a far more intense subject which ignites socio-political passions on both sides of it – much more so than if our national border policy itself had been firmly settled long ago and the ongoing debate today was merely about how best to implement that policy.
Further, the fact that it’s a federal issue isn’t helping. Rather than listening with open minds, people thousands of miles away who have never lived with the everyday realities of a long, largely-unsecured land border with a developing nation are nonetheless trying to exert their untested or perhaps impractical and failing social policy ideals on those who do. They are insisting that their far away countrymen accept the consequences of their proclaimed benevolence while they risk and sacrifice little themselves and project their vitriol against the president onto their fellow Americans.
The irony of course is that by demanding that their fellow Americans not only share their sensitivity but bear the brunt of its consequences, they are in reality being incredibly insensitive. Therefore, it is they who have constructed a barrier between themselves and their fellow citizens.
Indeed, it’s no secret that support or opposition to the wall splits largely along party lines and that the majority of border states host strong Republican majorities. Further, amongst a sea of questionable polling, a Texas CBS affiliate (and CBS isn’t exactly known for a conservative slant) found that Texans support Trump and the wall but also favor a pathway to citizenship.
Thus, under our quintessentially American form of republican government, while the nation as a whole clearly has an interest in its national border policy, those who have less of an interest and less firsthand experience owe a degree of deference to those who feel the effects of border policy more deeply. After all, it’s not that difficult to imagine the uproar and the teasing which would likely ensue if politicians from Oklahoma or Nebraska tried to force an “open harbors” policy on the people of Boston.
The author, Marty Gottesfeld, is a political prisoner of the Obama administration. You can learn more and donate to help him at FreeMartyG.com.