The latest is just more border nonsense

April 4, 2019

As solutions to the real emergency at the border, the president’s proposals are cut from the same cloth as his signature solution — a border wall. Which is to say they are absurd, emotional over-reaction combined with cynical political calculation. The problem: They are substituting for the comprehensive fixes that should occur.

His latest proposal is to cut foreign aid to Central American countries whose people are fleeing to the U.S. and, an initial ante, he had threatened to close this country’s border with Mexico altogether. After downgrading it to a threat to close it to foot traffic only, on Thursday he said he would give Mexico a “one-year warning” before shutting it down. And, yes, he still wants to build that wall from the Gulf to the Pacific.

Let us put this as simply as possible. Cutting foreign aid would exacerbate the flood of migrants from the so-called Northern Triangle countries — El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. That’s because much of this aid is to combat the social maladies from which these migrants are fleeing. These are problems such as violence, lawlessness and poverty. As bad as conditions are now, eliminate the aid and the dynamics that force the exodus worsen.

This is the real emergency at the border, and cutting foreign aid won’t solve it.

And closing the border — even in the future — would create an entirely new emergency as commerce on both sides of the border comes to a stop. Jobs would be lost, supply chains cut and profits eliminated as legal crossings for both people and goods are blocked. And closing it to legal foot traffic would stymie the people who work those jobs or otherwise conduct business on either side of the border. Bottom line: money still lost.

Mexico is Texas’ No. 1 trading partner. A complete border closure would devastate the state and its communities along the 1,254-mile Texas-Mexico border. And closing it to foot traffic would similarly suck lifeblood from those communities.

The wall was bad enough. The 11 million or so undocumented immigrants already here will stay, and anyone wanting to cross into the U.S. will still find a way.

Illegal crossings and apprehensions are at historic lows anyway, so a wall’s value is dubious in any case. And if it is designed to thwart Central Americans, they are substantively giving themselves up at legal ports of entry to pursue asylum claims.

We know; the temptation is to place Trump’s latest proposals purely in the bluster category — empty threats to compel action from those countries the president views as culprits and enablers of the migration. The president blames those Northern Triangle countries for not doing more to stop the flight and Mexico for allowing the migrants to travel though.

But if bluster worked, the president’s insistence that Mexico pay for the wall would mean the wall would already be built or be well on its way to getting there.

The danger here, however, is that, as we’re seeing with the border wall, Trump bluster can become actual policy.

Congress approved a resolution to block the national emergency the president cites as authority to redirect already-appropriated funds to build his wall. The House failed to muster the two-thirds vote needed to override the president’s veto. Only 14 Republicans joined House Democrats in that override attempt, even fewer were expected to vote to override in the Senate if that vote had taken place.

In failing to override, Congress allowed the president to usurp its constitutionally guaranteed power of the purse. This amounts to legislative cowardice, with much of the Texas delegation leading the way, unfortunately.

It doesn’t have to be this way. One does not have to be a nativist or white nationalist to see the need for immigration reform. But there are comprehensive solutions, much like the legislation the Senate enacted in 2013. The House, under Speaker John Bohner, failed to act and it simply died.

And the current influx of Central Americans — touching San Antonio as those released from detention seek aid here — has to be addressed in comprehensive fashion as well, with more resources dedicated to expediting asylum claims. Moreover, more aid to attack the root problems that force Central Americans to flee in the first place should also be on the table.

But a wall, any border closure and cutting the foreign aid that helps countries keep their people? This is the direct opposite of comprehensive. As solutions, they are counterproductive, which makes them farcical.

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