The partial shutdown of the federal government continues. Nine agencies have suspended operations and all but certain employees deemed essential are temporarily furloughed.
Among the ironies of this situation, is that both Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate already agreed last year on funding for all of these agencies with the exception of Homeland Security.
President Trump wants approximately $5 billion to pay for expansion of border security or The Wall, as he calls it. Democrats, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, are having none of it. Pelosi in fact called the Wall “immoral” and pledged that Democrats would oppose any appropriation measure funding it.
President Trump – who initially said he’d be proud to shut down the government over the Wall issue – now blames Democrats for the impasse.
As often is the case, the truth is obscured in the rhetoric being used by both sides.
First Mr. Trump. He made the Wall a major issue in his successful 2016 campaign for President. He repeatedly said that the Wall would be paid for by Mexico even though there is no mechanism to make the Mexicans comply.
Then there are the Democratic leaders, Pelosi and Schumer. Republicans have delighted in highlighting Mr. Schumer’s 2009 speech in which he decried illegal immigration and supported strong border enforcement. Schumer also, along with then Senators Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Barack Obama, voted in 2006 in favor of the “Secure Fence Act”, which authorized up to 700 miles of new or restored border barriers.
Last March, the bipartisan spending agreement authorized continued construction of border walls where such structures are needed along the US/Mexico border. Included in that legislation was over $1.5 billion to complete the last 50 or so miles of the border barrier which was authorized in 2006. Both Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer voted for that bill too.
Of course, the entire matter is caught up in politics. Mr. Trump wants to fulfill his 2016 campaign promise and Democrats want to keep him from that goal.
With the arrest of nearly 400,000 illegal border crossers last year, including thousands of unaccompanied minors, the US continues to have a serious problem along our southern border. The issue has vexed successive US Administrations and didn’t begin with Donald Trump. The migrants come mostly to escape poverty and violence in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. No doubt some are engaged in illegal activities including drugs and human sex trafficking but most come north for economic reasons.
The solution requires us to do multiple things simultaneously. Border security measures including physical fencing and electronic barriers should continue to be implemented. More immigration judges and border agents are needed and more work visas to legally bring workers here for agriculture and other industries with worker shortages.
And, a permanent solution to the status of up to 1.8 million children and young adults brought to the US – the so-called DACA population – should all be part of a compromise solution to our vexing immigration issues.
Both sides in the debate should compromise their positions. Democrats should agree that border fencing in some areas is both feasible and needed; Republicans should agree to speed implementation of technological solutions to monitor the border. Finally, resolving the status of the DACA population should be part of this compromise.
Acting now on the crisis we face at the border is in the national interest and both political parties should set aside their political calculations and do what is right.
That, is the way I see it.
Former Representative John Faso of Kinderhook represented New York's 19th House district in the 115th Congress.
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