Next Steps for Border Security
Last Friday, President Trump ended the partial government shutdown by agreeing to a short-term, three-week bill that allows federal workers to receive their paychecks while Congress debates a homeland and border security package. While I am pleased federal workers will receive their paychecks, nothing has changed with respect to our country’s border security needs. I hope since President Trump took a good-faith step to reopen the government and allow negotiations to take place, Democrats will seriously engage on the president’s idea to continue building a physical barrier along our southern border. This idea has routinely, until recently, received bipartisan support.
Currently, a physical barrier exists along 654 miles of our 2,000-mile southern border. Between 2007 and 2015, Customs and Border Protection (CPB) spent approximately $2.5 billion for fencing, gates, roads, bridges, lighting and drainage along the southwest border. In Fiscal Year 2018 (FY), Congress appropriated $1.6 billion to construct new and improve infrastructure in Rio Grande Valley, Texas and San Diego, California. The fact is a physical barrier works. In El Paso, Texas, San Diego, California, Tucson and Yuma, Arizona – all locations with a physical barrier – illegal border crossings have dropped over 90 percent. President Trump’s border security funding request is entirely reasonable and includes money for construction of a physical barrier, construction of all-weather patrol roads and increased funding for technology, all of which Democrats have previously supported.
Unfortunately, this bipartisanship disappeared once President Trump was in the Oval Office. The Secure Fence Act of 2006 approved and partially funded construction of fencing and other barriers along 700 miles of our southwest border. The bill passed the Senate 80 to 19 and was supported by some of our country’s most prominent Democrats: then-Senator Barack Obama, current Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, then-Senator Joe Biden, and then-Senator Hillary Clinton, who all voted in favor of this bill before it was signed into law by President Bush. Now, Speaker Pelosi is calling a barrier “an immorality.” We must find common ground to keep the government funded, but it is hard to find common ground when the current Democrat leadership has taken a position that is at odds with the long-held position of most other prominent Democrats. I can only imagine the president’s frustration.
The president has shown a willingness to compromise in order to achieve his top priority. He has proposed a solution which included key Democrat priorities, including a potential solution for Dreamers. While Democrats have always stated they favor fixing the immigration problems, if they have a different approach they should put their ideas on the table for debate and discussion. Unfortunately, congressional Democrats have rejected all attempts to negotiate and it is well past time for them to do so.
President Trump has made clear he is going to do what is necessary to protect our country when previous presidents have come up short. Border security and immigration reform doesn’t need to be a partisan issue. The president has taken Democrats at their word and wants to negotiate in order to reform our immigration laws and secure our border.