The federal government is still in partial shutdown after Congress failed to pass a spending bill on Dec. 22, 2018, due to controversy concerning funding for a border wall. Democrats and Republicans are equally as unwilling to reach a compromise, leaving Congress in gridlock for the foreseeable future.
The hotly debated wall was a major component of President Trump’s campaign for the presidency in 2016.
A signature feature of Trump’s campaign promise was that the funding for a wall on the border shared by the U.S. and Mexico would come from the Mexican government. Now that Trump is asking Congress for $5 billion for the wall, many of his supporters are questioning his campaign promise.
“Mexico is not going to pay for the wall,” says Josh Senft, a senior national security and business administration major and the president of AU’s College Republicans. “I never believed they would, and I suspect a decent portion of Trump’s base never truly did either.”
Senft believes a wall is “a necessary component of effective border security” and wants to clear up some of the misnomers about border security.
“I think what often gets lost in the debate and the sloganeering is that very few serious proponents actually believe a border wall would be 100 percent impenetrable or stretch along the entirety of the southern border,” he said. “Rather, it would help bring illegal immigration down to a more manageable level for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.”
Senft also delved into the politics of the border wall.
“I think the wall has also become something of an optics game for both sides,” he said. “To large segments of Trump’s base, the wall is more than just practical, but also a symbolic manifestation of being ‘tough’ on the issue. For many on the left, the wall is seen as impractical, as well as a symbolic manifestation of ‘hatred’ and a plethora of ‘isms.’”
Senft says that at the end of the day, “the rule of law still matters.”
“None of this is meant to suggest that people should be overly fearful of immigrants, legal or illegal,” he said. “In fact, I believe the overwhelming majority of them are good people hoping to make a better life for themselves and their families.
“But people should ask themselves, ‘Why does the average person lock their doors at night or when away?’ It’s perfectly rational risk assessment and it should be employed in our immigration system just as it is in our homes.”
Though there are many who believe a wall would make border security more manageable for CBP, there are also those who believe a wall should be abandoned and policy-oriented actions should be taken.
Becca Peach, a junior majoring in political science, economics and philosophy and history, believes that a wall is unnecessary in responding to the U.S. immigration crisis.
“I honestly think that perhaps a viable solution to decreasing the number of those living in the country illegally is to take common sense, moderate measures towards expediting and easing the process by which one may become a citizen,” she said. “The majority of those living in the country illegally did not come here via a route to which the wall would have presented a significant obstacle.”
In national crises, many often look to point fingers. Peach believes Trump should be held partially responsible.
“I think that the government shutdown is just one of many indicators that perhaps the bargaining skills of which the president so often boasts have not sufficiently transferred from his role as businessman to his role as president,” she said. “I think that if Trump provided a more stable position and posture, this shutdown would
not have drawn out as long.”
Peach also believes that Trump’s rhetoric and the position taken by his supporters poses a danger to immigrants.
“I think that in many situations the aggressive and accusatory posture taken by the president and his core base towards immigrants is unnecessary and often dangerous,” she said.
Though Peach does not believe a border wall is necessary, she does believe that, “for his own elective purposes,” Trump should not back down from his campaign promise.
A failure on Trump’s part to deliver on such a key component of his campaign could harm his prospects for reelection in 2020.