Harrop: Trump’s wall has separated us from immigration fixes

Lost in the debate over the wall — and the shutdown — has been what the needs are and the best reforms.

By Froma Harrop

Syndicated columnist

It’s hard to count the half-truths, warped symbolism and abuse of logic that plunged our country into a government shutdown. Sure, blatant lies will do it, but these other players are worse because they are sneaky.

Now, President Trump’s reason for the shutdown, a “crisis” at the border, was a lie. The real reason was Robert Mueller’s tightening noose around his world and a desperate need for new drama to draw eyes elsewhere. When things go south, Trump sends attention in the same direction — to where the United States meets Mexico.

Trump couldn’t get Congress to approve wall funding, even when Republicans ran the whole thing. When the new Democratic House leadership said “no wall,” Trump responded “then no government.” While he rummaged for an out, some right-wing mercenaries said mean things about him on their tweet machines, and he collapsed. Nobody “forced” him.

If a national emergency existed — he certainly convinced many Americans there was one — might such a drastic step be justified? Perhaps, but there isn’t one. Illegal immigration remains a problem, but the numbers attached to it are down. The population of undocumented immigrants in this country has actually been declining, according to a new Pew Research Center study using government data.

Some defenders said that even if a wall stopped just a few, it would be worth it. But if they are that concerned, why don’t they also call for vigorously punishing the employers who provide the jobs that draw the undocumented here? Note that hiring undocumented workers is illegal, as well. Trump knows that. (He employs them himself.) The game is to treat the workers as criminals but, if they get through, turn a blind eye to the companies that provide them employment. Talk about amnesties.

The most cracked corner of this whole wall business is the question of who should pay for the wall. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that it is needed. Trump made making Mexico pay for the wall a cornerstone of his campaign.

OK. But if there’s a threat to national security, why ask other countries to pay for our defense? Just do it. Of course, this was a thinly covered exercise in blaming foreigners for a perceived domestic problem.

Many Democrats retort, “You said Mexico would pay for the wall.” This wrongly evades the nut of the question. It is, “Do we need a wall or not?” Of course, they are harassing Trump with his own stupid rhetoric. But saying this reinforces the belief in many minds that we need a wall and the problem is paying for it. It fuels an argument that should roll to a stop based on its faulty foundation.

For the record, we already have fencing and other barriers along parts of the border vulnerable to illegal entry. Tijuana has many miles of barrier extending along land and then well into the water.

I wish Nancy Pelosi wouldn’t call the wall “immoral.” The American people have a right to border security. Pelosi frequently asserts that everyone wants this but doesn’t make clear enough that this sometimes means turning good people away. When Barack Obama ran a vigorous deportation program, he came under attack by various left-wingers and ethnic activists. Pelosi did not do nearly enough to defend him.

Perhaps her use of “immoral” was a way of getting at the racism feeding so much of the wall demands. It’s there, for sure. But it’s unfair to so label everyone who sees this as a path toward an orderly immigration system. Many just haven’t digested all the facts.

Our immigration program needs a major overhaul, which will generate heated debate. That’s unavoidable. We just wish the debate were smarter.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. Email her at fharrop@gmail.com.

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