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The point is made; now let federal employees get back to work
Neither President Trump nor Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer likely changed any minds about the proposed border wall Tuesday night, and their appearances were likely more about political theater than actual construction, more about the 2020 election than illegal immigration.
Meanwhile, the federal government continues to be shut down, with effects piling up every day like garbage in national parks.
Despite his promise that Mexico would pay for the wall, the president is holding out for $5.7 billion in funding from the American people, claiming new trade deals make up the difference.
Even $5.7 billion won’t build a wall, according to best conservative current estimates, which place the cost at $7 billion for fencing and related infrastructure, with lifetime maintenance costs exceeding $50 billion.
Last March, Trump signed an omnibus government spending bill including $1.6 billion he called “an initial down payment” on the wall, construction of about 25 miles of new wall along levees in Texas and repair and upgrades of existing structures.
Created in 1924, the U.S. Border Patrol fought increased illegal immigration in the 1970s and drug trafficking in the 1990s.
The issue was put on the front burner by the 2001 September 11 attacks, the Secure Fence Act was passed in 2006 to build 700 miles of double-reinforced security fencing in selected areas, and 6,000 National Guardsmen were sent to the Mexico border by President George W. Bush.
It was technology helped apprehend about 8,600 people who took their chances trying to cross an Air Force bombing range in Arizona one year, but a fence and increased border patrols helped reduce illegal entry in the San Diego area from about 600,000 in the early 1990s to 39,000 in 2015.
Critics point out that most illegal drugs come into the country undetected in trucks and vehicles at points of entry, and many illegals enter the country legally only to overstay their visas.
Tunnels, wire cutters and climbing skills overcome the barriers in other places, they say, and water routes through the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean are always open.
Wall supporters like to pull out old videos and quotes of Barack Obama and other Democrats calling for stronger border security and they do have a point, as do critics who point out the current president’s tenuous grasp of facts related to the wall and many other issues.
While both sides agree that more effective immigration policies and border security are needed, it falls to the executive branch to implement details of what’s best in the national interest.
The Democrats should give the president something he can claim as a victory so the nation can move on.