If I were a Democrat, here’s what I believe Schumer/Pelosi should propose. Not only should they agree to fund $25 billion for a southern border wall, they should approve all remaining funding to finish it, whatever is needed, but under one key stipulation: That Trump’s name be stamped on that wall, emblazoned with really big ornate lettering, about every ten to twenty feet, for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of miles, from one end to the other. Trump may even like the attention it brings him. Also, the Trump name should not be painted or stenciled, but imprinted like a serial number on a firearm, etched really really deep, i.e., in a way that would be exceedingly difficult to un-stamp. And in agreeing to fund that wall so generously, Democrats will have better leverage in a larger immigration deal.
And that’s the real bet. If Trump is right, then he gets all this big beautiful credit for his successful venture, cementing a legacy will last dozens, maybe hundreds, of years. Mexicans and other Latinos will be perpetually stymied in their attempts to go El Norte, with illegal immigration from El Sur reduced to a trickle. The risk to the Democrats is they’ll look like fools in objecting to it over all these years.
But what if Trump is wrong? What if this wall is built and it doesn’t really stop illegal immigration by Latin Americans? What if it turns out to be basically ineffective? What if the total number of illegal immigrants doesn’t change all that much? What would be the result? Would it be fair to say that Trump Wall was a boondoggle? A big un-beautiful white elephant? Maybe yes. After billions and billions spent, this big imposing wall with Trump’s name on it will be, uh, a different kind of legacy, especially because Mexicans didn’t pay for it. And that legacy will be there for as long Trump Wall exists, making Trump look the fool.
There’s a history about walls, and it’s a not a very good one. Although the phrase border security is not as sexy and does not have the same cachet as Trump Wall, it seems to me that our focus should be on walls and fences, supplemented by border personnel and effective security technology. If I were a Republican, I’d go with that and not give Democrats immigration leverage with Trump Wall.
But even if Trump Wall does work, the illegal immigration problem is far from solved because a majority of illegal immigrants are due to visa overstays, not southern border crossings. Proper enforcement of visa overstays will entail more money for more law enforcement. Here’s what I’d like to see. If a person is caught with an expired visa, he/she is jailed (say, a year) and then deported. They don’t have a right to be here, and the loss of a year of a person’s life seems like a good deterrent to me.
And this doesn’t even get into the employer side of the equation. So far, it’s been about the restricting-the-supply aspects of the issue, but there’s also restricting the demand side. People come here for our economic opportunities, but those opportunities will dry up if employers face a real and serious risk of large financial penalties if caught employing illegals. Trump has said little on that issue, and it needs to be said and acted upon.
P.S. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: Illegal immigrants don’t have a right to be here. Neither do DREAMers. As a rule-of-law kind of guy, I support enforcing the law against illegal immigrants. But that said, if an illegal immigrant has positively contributed and not broken any other laws, I’m open to that person obtaining some form of legal status, but only after paying a financial penalty that will hurt. A penalty that doesn’t hurt would be tantamount to amnesty. I don’t want a path to citizenship for that illegal immigrant because he/she broke the law in coming here and I don’t want to give folks who are thinking of coming here illegally an incentive. I’m also open to DREAMers staying here, without financial penalty and with a path to citizenship, provided they’ve been law-abiding. It was their parents’ choice to break our immigration laws, not theirs.