The border policy debacle — Never let a serious crisis go to waste
By Mark Alexander
When Donald Trump announced his candidacy on 16 June 2015, he made economic growth, fair trade, and border security/immigration reform the centerpieces of his campaign. In his now-familiar brash New York bravado, he declared, "I will build a great wall ― and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me ― and I'll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall."
After his election in November 2016, he clarified, "For certain areas I would [build a fence], but certain areas, a wall is more appropriate."
On 25 January 2017, among his earliest initiatives as president, he signed Executive Order 13767, "Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements," giving direction to the Department of Homeland Security as well as U.S. Customs and Border Protection to enhance border barriers and security. He cited the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq.), the Secure Fence Act of 2006, and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.
DHS estimated the cost of secure barriers, walls, and fencing along our southern border to be $21 billion — substantially more than the Trump administration's estimate. DHS also estimated the project would take three years to complete.
In February, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto canceled a state visit to the White House, protesting, "Mexico does not believe in walls. I've said time again; Mexico will not pay for any wall." Clearly not. Generations of American politicians have campaigned on curbing illegal immigration, but did little or nothing about it, believing it would be unpopular with Hispanic and Latino constituencies and bad for business. (In December 2018, Trump declared, "Mexico is paying for the wall because the trade deal is billions and billions of dollars better than the old NAFTA trade deal.")
That was the beginning of the border debacle that now pits Trump against Democrat Party leaders who gave regular lip service to border security — until Trump made it a centerpiece of his presidential platform.
So, how did we arrive at the current deadlock?
Given that Trump cut deeply into blue-collar Democrat territory in 2016, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer adopted a strategy to flip-flop on border security in order to appease their Hispanic and Latino constituents. After years of advocating for border security on behalf of their lower- and middle-income constituents — because we all know that illegal immigration puts downward pressure on American workers' wages — Democrat leaders have since calculated that the only way to defeat Trump is to redouble their appeal to Hispanics and Latinos. But Democrats don't care about illegal immigrants and their children — beyond their usefulness as political fodder.
What followed was the rapid growth of so-called sanctuary cities, leftist-controlled enclaves advocating open borders and protection from deportation, which naturally invited illegal immigrants to swarm the border. Just over a year into Trump's administration, there were more than 500 declared sanctuary zones. At the same time, Democrats encouraged the practice of anchor-baby citizenship to ensure a pipeline of future Hispanic voters.
In his 2018 State of the Union, President Trump clearly articulated his immigration and border-security policy, and he condemned the Left's flip-flop against American workers.
I note "fortunately for Democrats" because, as it turns out, the efficacy of their flip-flop on illegal immigration is not as clear as they'd hoped. Many legal and illegal immigrants in the U.S. now know what blue-collar American workers knew in 2016 — that illegal immigration puts downward pressure on their wages.
In January, an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that Hispanic and Latino approval of President Trump surged 19 points in just one month to 50%. A McLaughlin & Associates survey in March confirmed the January surge.
Fortunately for the nation, the Demos' fake collusion narrative, which provided them victory last November, is finally falling apart.
But the Demo House majority has created much greater obstacles for Trump's border and immigration policy objectives. He responded in late December with a partial government shutdown, a flawed attempt to break the congressional logjam.
Responding to the shutdown, Pelosi declared, "The fact is, we all agree we need to secure our borders. ... The fact is, the women and children at the border are not a security threat; they are a humanitarian challenge — a challenge that President Trump's own cruel and counterproductive policies have only deepened."
The fact is, Pelosi has that exactly backwards, and she knows it.
The Democrats have advertised to poor people in Central America that we have an open border, and this has cruelly encouraged the caravans flooding north and overwhelmed border-security personnel with immigrants who have been coached to falsely claim asylum. Democrats have thus created the humanitarian and security crisis on our southern border.
On February 15, in another tactical move to break the border-policy deadlock, Trump signed an emergency declaration in order to bypass Congress and fund his border-security plan. Emergency declarations have been issued more than 50 times by the last six presidents, and for matters far less urgent than this one.
The declaration calls for $8.1 billion from various sources, including $3.6 billion from DoD construction projects, $2.5 billion from DoD drug-interdiction funds, and $600 million from the Treasury Forfeiture Fund.
According to Trump, "The law is 100% on my side." And Georgetown constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley, a Democrat, affirms that he is correct. According to Turley: "Congress expressly gave presidents the authority to declare such emergencies and act unilaterally. The 1976 National Emergencies Act gives presidents sweeping authority as well as allowance ... to declare an 'immigration emergency' to deal with an 'influx of aliens which either is of such magnitude ... that effective administration of the immigration laws of the United States is beyond the existing capabilities' of immigration authorities.... The basis for such an invocation generally includes the 'likelihood of continued growth in the magnitude of the influx,' rising criminal activity ... and 'other circumstances.'"
Predictably, Pelosi immediately responded with a legislative proposal to reject the declaration, which the president vetoed, saying, "As President, the protection of the nation is my highest duty. Congress passed a dangerous resolution that, if signed into law, would put countless Americans in danger — very grave danger."
Pelosi couldn't muster the votes to override his veto, so the declaration stands. Undeterred, Schumer and Pelosi then issued memos to Demos and their Leftmedia echo chambers to parrot their talking point that Trump's objective was to "manufacture a crisis, stoke fear and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration." And they all dutifully did just that.
On March 15, the president reiterated his defense of the declaration, saying, "The situation at the southern border is rapidly deteriorating."
And indeed it has continued to do so.
Here, then, is a current assessment of the crisis Pelosi and company manufactured on our southern border — in the name of political expedience.
According to former Obama Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson: "When I was in office, in Kirstjen Nielsen's job at her desk, I got to work around 6:30 in the morning and there'd be my intelligence book sitting on my desk — the PDP and also the apprehension numbers from the day before — and I would look at them every morning. It would be the first thing I looked at and I probably got too close to the problem. And my staff will tell you if it was under 1,000 apprehensions the day before, that was a relatively good number; and if it was above 1,000, it was a relatively bad number, and I was going to be in a bad mood the whole day. On [March 26] there were 4,000 apprehensions. I know that 1,000 overwhelms the system and I cannot begin to imagine what 4,000 a day looks like. So we are truly in a crisis."
Johnson thoroughly debunked the Demo chorus that Trump "manufactured the crisis," adding, "By anyone's definition, by any measure, right now we have a crisis at our southern border. Four thousand apprehensions on our southern border in one day, 100,000 in a month, is a crisis."
Nielsen, Trump's DHS secretary, concluded last week: "The situation at our southern border has gone from a crisis to near system-wide meltdown. As the president has declared — this is a national emergency. ... Late last year, we were apprehending 50,000-60,000 migrants a month at the southern border. Last month, we apprehended more than 75,000, the highest in over a decade. And now we are nearing 100,000 migrants per month. ... Because of outdated laws, misguided court decisions, and a massive backlog of cases, the majority of those who do not have a legal right to stay in the United States will never be removed. Smugglers and traffickers know these weaknesses, and they are taking advantage of what they see as a 'free ticket' into America."
Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol union, said last Tuesday, "This is the worst crisis the Border Patrol has ever faced in the history of the Border Patrol and we're going back to 1924. In my 21-year career as a Border Patrol agent, I've never seen it like this, and I've worked in the busiest locations. ... In the history of the Border Patrol it's never been like this before. This is the worst it's ever been and if we don't do something it's going to continue to get worse."
Fact is, by any measure there is also a crisis within our borders.
Illegal immigrants are net consumers of taxpayer services, costing federal, state, and local governments more than $8,000 per person annually. That's more than $135 billion a year, primarily for "free" education ($46 billion), medical services ($29 billion), law enforcement ($23 billion), and welfare ($9 billion).
Illegal immigrants pay approximately $19 billion in taxes, and the net cost to American taxpayers is about $116 billion. The net taxpayer cost over the lifetime of a single illegal-immigrant laborer is approximately $231,000.
Of course, we really don't know and won't know the full extent of the illegal-immigrant cost and crisis within our borders, or where the greatest distribution of federal taxpayer dollars are being allocated to support illegal immigrants, because Democrats are blocking citizenship questions on the next census. If they are successful in the courts, they will succeed at artificially inflating the population demographics of "sanctuary" cities and states to increase their electoral representation.
Regardless, Pelosi and Schumer are standing firm in support of their open-border policies and the humanitarian crisis they've created.
Thus, President Trump fired an additional shot over the Democrats' bow, announcing last week that his next step might be to shut down the border entirely until Democrats come around.
Trump declared, "Security is more important to me than trade. We're going to have a strong border, or we're going to have a closed border."
The president says he wants action by both Mexico and Congress. "If they don't, or if we don't make a deal with Congress, the border's going to be closed, 100%. We're going to close the border ... or we're going to close large sections of the border. But it's the only way we're getting a response, and I'm totally ready to do it."
Trump is taking considerable heat from both sides of the political aisle because of the projected impact of a total border closure. The administration is considering a modified border-closure strategy, leaving the border open to commercial traffic but shutting down all noncommercial and foot traffic.
Mexico got the message, at least temporarily, and authorities there are apprehending thousands of immigrants on their own southern border. Additionally, the Mexican government has promised to restrict migrants' transit visas and deport those attempting to get to the United States who don't have proper documentation.
Trump's response: "We'll see."
But make no mistake, Democrats will hold the line. Adhering to the advice of Obama's former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste," they see the crisis on the border as a political opening to loosen constraints on immigration and grow their voter constituency pipeline.
To that end, last week Julian Castro became the first Demo 2020 candidate to propose a border-crisis "solution" — claiming he is "putting people first," but most certainly not the American people. His proposal is basically a Demo-voter open-border pipeline plan promoting unlimited immigration, extending citizenship and voting rights to illegal immigrants, and subverting enforcement of immigration laws.
I would suggest that the Trump administration add an additional tactic: Start every day by highlighting in the White House briefing the violent assaults and murders being committed by illegal immigrants — and hang those tragedies around Democrat necks.
Bottom line: The immigration policy debacle is not about "The Wall." It's about the abject disregard of U.S. sovereignty by elected Democrats and their media minions in order to ensure electoral dominance in the future.
Finally, for the record, it's worth once again reviewing what Democrats said when they were in favor of border security...
Nancy Pelosi: "Do we have a commitment to secure the border? Yes. ... While we need to address the issue of immigration and the challenge we have of undocumented people ... we certainly don't want any more coming in."
Chuck Schumer: "People who enter the U.S. without our permission are illegal aliens, and illegal aliens should not be treated the same as people who enter the U.S. legally. ... When we use phrases like 'undocumented workers,' we convey to the American people that their government is not serious about combatting illegal immigration. ... I think it is illegal and wrong."
Barack Obama: "We are a generous and welcoming people here in the United States, but those who enter our country illegally, and those who employ them, disrespect the rule of law, and they are showing disregard for those who are following the law. We simply cannot allow people to poor into the United States undetected, undocumented, unchecked, circumventing the line of people who are waiting patiently, diligently and lawfully, to become immigrants."
Hillary Clinton: "We have to send a clear message — just because your child gets across the border, that doesn't mean your child gets to stay. We don't want to send a message that is contrary to our laws."
Bill Clinton: "All Americans, not only in the states most heavily affected but in every place in this country, are rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country. The jobs they hold might otherwise be held by citizens or legal immigrants. The public services they use impose burdens on our taxpayers. That's why our administration has moved aggressively to secure our borders. ... It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years."
All consummate hypocrites ignoring the humanitarian crisis they have created at our southern border in the name of political expedience.
Mark Alexander is the executive editor of the Patriot Post.