Legislating is the art of finding bearable compromise – or at least it used to be before polarization made giving an inch a sign of political weakness. But a proposal this week that would trade the well-being of millions of young immigrants for a multi-billion dollar border wall is a bad compromise for most everyone not named Donald Trump.
The president wants his wall, now with a price tag of at least $18 billion, in exchange for allowing DACA immigrants who were brought here by undocumented parents to stay. Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who met with Trump last week, says the president won’t sign any compromise that doesn’t include it. “I really encouraged him to remain steadfast in his position,” Tillis said in an interview Sunday on FOX News, and Republicans are expected to offer a more formal deal as early as Tuesday.
But the wall Tillis backed Sunday is an impractical and inefficient use of the public’s money. Who says so? Thom Tillis, last April.
“We need to recognize that a continuous wall from one end of our Southern border to the other is neither feasible nor effective,” Tillis said in a post on his web site. “It’s basic geology. A 20-foot wall on a 3,000-foot sheer cliff will not stop human crossings or drug trafficking, and neither will a 20-foot wall on the Rio Grande River, where the winding river and soft soil make construction extremely difficult and expensive.”
Tillis is far from the only Republican who, at least at one point, has been reluctant to endorse Trump’s wall. A few have outright said it’s an awful idea, including Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, who said: “I’ve made it clear time and time again that building a physical wall from sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to secure a border.”
The public doesn’t much like the idea, either, with polls consistently showing that close to two-thirds of Americans don’t want Trump’s border wall. Polls do show, however, that Americans largely favor tightening security at U.S. borders to stem the flow of immigration.
How to go about doing so? Tillis had an answer for that, too, back in April. “We can effectively achieve a secure border through major strategic investments in three resources: personnel, technology and infrastructure,” he said. What kind of infrastructure? “A combination of fencing, watch towers and other physical barriers,” he wrote. That’s what Republican and Democratic senators have been talking about since last year in trying to find a DACA compromise. It’s a far cry from the wall Tillis is now encouraging Trump to hold steady on.
Tillis is attempting a difficult political maneuver here. He’s called for the protection of DACA immigrants, yet he knows that the wall is an important symbol to the president. As of now, Tillis is doing more stumbling than straddling, even getting booted from the negotiating group by senators who feel that he’s broken confidence and misrepresented the impending bill, McClatchy reports.
What Tillis should remember is that Americans (often including Republicans) want immigration reform that includes a path for undocumented immigrants already here to stay here. They want better border security and fewer border crossings, which already were slowing under President Obama.
What they want, essentially, is compromise. A wall, regardless of who wants it, should be a non-starter.