Building a wall across the US border with Mexico was never meant as anything other than a fantastical campaign promise by Donald Trump to fire up his base. But this particular promise was pure fantasy from the start – just how, for example, was Mexico going to be held to Trump’s promise to pay for it? He has zero authority to make another sovereign country pay for a US government commitment.
(Plus, can you imagine the uproar if another country’s candidate unilaterally promised its people that the US was going to pay for something? People would be marching with pitchforks and torches in the streets.)
How We Know The GOP Isn’t Serious
Neither Trump nor the GOP are seriously committed to fulfilling his promise about the wall. You can tell by several reasons:
- in the two years the GOP controlled all 3 branches of government, they did not making getting the wall built a priority (or it would have happened for one of the President’s signature promises);
- during recent shutdown negotiations with Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer, Trump and the GOP offered up exactly nothing of value in exchange for getting Trump’s hoped-for $5.7 billion funding; and,
- a year ago, after a deal with Democrats was in the making offering a pathway to citizenship for DREAMERs in exchange for funding for the wall, the immigration hardliners in Trump’s administration killed it with the President’s assent.
Trouble is, his base expected him to deliver. Which isn’t unreasonable on the surface. Your favored candidate makes promises, he gets elected, you want him to fulfill his promises. Right?
Have You Noticed The Goalposts Keep Moving?
But as it’s become more clear that Trump isn’t going to deliver, and that his support even among what has been his unshakable base is slipping, he and his party keep moving the goalposts – and apparently hoping enough of us are ignorant enough to not notice:
- Trump claimed he never said Mexico would write a check for the wall but that Mexico will pay for it through increased trade with the US, though even the normally Trump-friendly Wall Street Journal questioned his assertion;
- at one point he even claimed he’d never promised Mexico would pay for the wall; and,
- shortly before agreeing to end the shutdown he said 550 miles, not 2,000, would be good enough.
Fortunately, the American people aren’t universally ignorant. 60% adamantly oppose building the wall and 81% want a legal way for DREAMERs to obtain citizenship. As well, DHS’s own statistics show illegal immigration at the lowest level in decades, up only slightly in 2018 from 2017 which was the lowest level ever recorded.
The Other Way To Stop Illegal Immigration
As I’ve written before, illegal immigration is driven primarily by migrants wanting to find work in the US that lets them adequately support their families – many of whom are escaping violence in their native countries. There is already an effective program in place that lets employers who enroll confirm the eligibility of their employees to work in the US. The program is E-Verify. It’s cheap, effective, and easy to enroll as an employer.
A nationwide mandatory E-Verify for employers would stop illegal immigration. But there’s an entire major donor faction of the GOP who are employers that rely on a steady supply of cheap labor and therefore resistant to mandatory E-Verify. Especially during this time of historic low unemployment, employers such as restaurants and farms who depend on cheap labor are willing to turn a blind eye to the immigration status of their employees.
Though President Trump had promised to at least look into national E-Verify during his campaign, he had been quiet on the issue for the first two years of his presidency, frustrating some Republicans who were willing to buck the wishes of GOP employer donors.
But recently after media reports that the Trump Organization had hired numerous undocumented workers, Trump’s company announced it will expand its use of E-Verify. Additionally, a number of his supporters are urging him to issue an Executive Order to make E-Verify mandatory after a reported 700% surge in arrests of illegal workers and their employers.
Let’s See The President Spin This One
If employers risked a serious fines to employ undocumented workers, they’d stop employing them. And undocumented workers would stop coming across the border if the supply of jobs dwindled to nothing. Those who profess to be serious about reducing illegal immigration ought to come out fully in support of a national mandatory E-Verify, which could be done far more cheaply and quickly than a wall.
Yet the administration insists a wall – some kind of wall – must be built, and threatens various bully tactics to get its way: another shutdown, declaring a national emergency, or appropriating funds from the military, the last two of which are certainly unconstitutional and likely to get stopped cold by either the courts or the Democratic-majority House that appropriates funding for the government.
But surely Donald Trump, who is so masterful at explaining away bothersome facts, could convince his base he delivered on his promise if he adopted E-Verify and abandoned the wall. Couldn’t he?
Maybe we’ll find out.