Political compromises in Washington aren’t easy to find these days, but for how long can an obvious solution to a standoff be ignored? As he reiterated in his address to the nation Tuesday night, President Donald Trump wants $5.7bn to begin building a wall on the southern border; congressional Democrats refuse. Without a budget agreement, the government went into partial shutdown mode – roughly 25% of federal operations – last month.
Trump described the chasm that separates him from Democratic leaders: He asserted that the government “remains shut down for one reason and one reason only – because Democrats will not fund border security.” Trump spoke of what he sees as the dangers Americans face because of inadequate border controls, and he challenged his political opponents to help end what he called a “growing humanitarian and security crisis” at the border.
If only there was a way out of this mess that would give both sides a chance to claim a victory on immigration, or at least provide viable cover stories. There is, and the nice part is it’s already been the subject of negotiations. Trump wants the wall because he wants to be seen as tough on immigration. Democrats want to protect the status of young immigrants known as the Dreamers. Some version of wall money in exchange for an agreement to maintain the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme makes sense.
Let’s not give in to the current national mania for poisonous atmospherics. Granted, Trump is playing hardball at a puzzling time: Democrats have just taken control of the House and are itching for big-stakes political wins. Trump doesn’t want to look weak. That’s why the partial shutdown is in Week 3. Meanwhile, thousands of federal workers and contractors’ employees are on layoff or potentially working without pay. A few more days and this shutdown becomes the longest on record, with uncertain, potentially serious consequences for the government but also the booming US economy.
In Trump’s first Oval Office address of his presidency Tuesday night, he tried to draw a national television audience into his pro-wall camp. His arguments for building an expensive, imposing barrier on the border with Mexico never struck as realistic. Theatrical? Yes. Compelling? Not so much. The cost would be prohibitive and the logistics likely impossible. Trump doesn’t help his credibility by having claimed Mexico would pay or by exaggerating the national security implications.
The fact is many people from Mexico and Central America, including those in last year’s caravans, continue to make their way to the border. It’s a dangerous journey. Anyone without legal permission to enter the United States shouldn’t try. For those seeking asylum, there is a process. Tighter security is needed in the form of well-staffed border patrol operations, high-tech surveillance and, in certain locations, improved barriers. So give the president the money he wants to spend on concrete or steel fencing as part of a budget agreement that reopens the government.
In exchange, let’s see a deal on DACA.
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