We guess stiffing workers passes for leadership in some circles, like, perhaps, some in the building trade in New York or, maybe, Florida, or maybe in some executive offices of the oval persuasion.
That’s really what the current partial shutdown of the government is accomplishing, stiffing 450,000 workers who are working without pay for the time being, and furloughing another 400,000 or so workers who will, no doubt, actually lose their pay for the lost time. If the need to fund the President’s border wall is a matter of national security–an emergency, as the President is now suggesting, there should be no need to shut down the government. The President, quite possibly, has the wherewithal to draw those funds from existing departmental budgets to meet a true national security emergency. But this is showtime, folks. It’s theater with a cast of hundreds of thousands of unpaid players. It’s all about presidential swagger, and congressional recalcitrance. It’s about an absence, not an exercise, of leadership in Washington.
Frankly, we carry no brief for or against the wall. A border certainly needs to be something more than a line on a map, and no one should feel free to meander or sneak across our border. That millions have come and set down roots in America without any authorization from our country is wrong. There is a right way and a wrong way to come to America, so border security shouldn’t be a very debatable subject.
Whether, in this day and age, a physical twenty-or-thirty-or fifty-foot wall provides the border security the country needs is a fair question. A big wall will certainly keep many undocumented people out. But let’s recognize that people can, and do, fly in, sail in, drive in and, of course, walk in. In fact, they do every day. They can tunnel under and climb over a barrier and some, no doubt, will. The wall will do for the ladder industry what highways have done for the asphalt and concrete industries (just kidding…sort of).
Today, the majority of illegal immigrants arrive legally and simply do not leave when their visa’s have expired. The fact is more, many more, come and stay that way rather than by hoofing it over the border. Logic would suggest that we’ll see a surge in people over-staying their visa’s as soon as a wall is built. In fact, people are doing just that in anticipation of a wall being built. A big, long, wall will not do much to enforce our border without improved enforcement of visa regulations.
And here’s another interesting rub. By calling the need for a border wall a matter of national security, but going through a routine appropriation process to get it done belies the notion of urgency or emergency. The administration will have no defense, short of declaring martial law, against the onslaught of litigation that will follow a decision to build hundreds of miles of wall across our southern border from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. There also will be substantial environmental impact as wildlife migrations are affected. So, for sure, there will be years of environmental litigation opposing the wall. We’ll also see an avalanche of eminent-domain suits as the government moves to “take” private property in the name of border control, especially when the taking involves geography with little prior history of illegal border crossings. Unclear, in the estimates to build the wall is whether the projected costs adequately include acquisition of private land and the associated legal expenses of “taking” that land through eminent domain.
Will a wall keep people out? Of course, but many, if not most, illegal immigrants will still come. They’ll simply find alternate ways of coming. Chew on this statistic while contemplating border security. According to the Center for Migration Studies, the number of undocumented immigrants who overstayed their visas to remain in the United States has outnumbered those illegally crossing the southern border — by at least 600,000 a year. The vast majority of undocumented immigrants who come simply overstay their visas. What has the Trump administration done to deal with this reality? Well, as far as we can tell, nothing. The Wall is a bigger, shinier object and one that has powerful political impact so that’s what the President addresses, and addresses and addresses. But on visa oversight? Not a word.
And while the government is partially shut down and essential workers are working without pay, consider this. The TSA agents who operate that very sophisticated detection equipment, and who check to make sure no bad hombres are boarding our airplanes planning to blow themselves up along with the rest of us — well, our airport security folks are being stiffed too. Yes, while the President and Congress play shutdown chicken, airport security personnel are working without pay. Safe travels, mate.
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