Rich Lowry: The irrational allergy to the wall

It’s a wonder that Democrats haven’t staked out a negotiating position demanding the destruction of already-existing barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Their opposition to President Donald Trump’s border wall (or, more properly, his so-called wall) is now so total as to be nearly indistinguishable from opposition to any serious infrastructure at the border at all.

The partial government shutdown is fueled by a clash of visions over, ultimately, the legitimacy of borders and, proximately, physical barriers to make our southern border more secure. Trump has the better part of the argument, but his lurch into the shutdown with no discernible strategy and his scattershot pronouncements make it unlikely that his view will carry the day. Obviously, a 2,000-mile-long border wall rivaling the best work of the Ming Dynasty never made any sense, and was never going to happen. Nor, short of Trump finding a latter-day Gen. Winfield Scott to go occupy Mexico City, was Mexico going to suffer the humiliation of funding a Yanqui border wall.

This was all lurid fantasy, and Trump has conceded as much, although he will, at times, deny having conceded as much. His ambitions are now much more reasonable, involving the kind of up-to-date bollard or “steel slat” fencing that already exists in places. But he’s running into an opposition that is much less reasonable. Triggered as always by Trump, and growing more dovish on immigration almost by the hour, Democrats are treating the notion of a wall as practically a human-rights abuse. President Barack Obama routinely droned people without generating as much high dudgeon as Trump does asking for $5 billion to better fortify our southern border. Chuck Schumer calls the wall “medieval.” It’s true that the core idea — a physical barrier to impede the movement of people — isn’t a new technology. The basic concept proved out so long ago that there hasn’t been any need to revisit it. Nancy Pelosi deems the wall “immoral.” She sounds like West Berlin Mayor Willy Brandt condemning the Berlin Wall as the “Wall of Shame” — when the East Germans built their border barrier to keep people in, whereas we only want to keep illegal entrants out.

If a wall is immoral, what standing does the current 350 miles of primary fencing have? Isn’t it just as hateful as what Trump proposes? The $5 billion the president wants wouldn’t even match what we already have — it would construct about 150 miles of new barriers where none currently exist.

A wall or fencing is relatively mild as far as immigration enforcement goes. It doesn’t involve deporting anyone. It doesn’t separate families. It doesn’t prosecute and detain anyone. It doesn’t deny any illegal immigrant currently working in the United States a job. All it does is seek to avoid getting in a situation where these other things are necessary in the first place.

A wall doesn’t close down the border, or close us off to the world. There are still ports of entry. People can still travel to and from Mexico. People can still, for that matter, fly to Paris. It just diminishes illegal entry at certain strategic points.

Robust fencing made an enormous difference in stopping illegal crossings in Yuma, Arizona. The area had only about 5 miles of fencing in the mid-2000s, then saw the extent of its fencing increase tenfold. Illegal crossings plummeted.

Yuma got that additional fencing thanks to the passage of the Secure Fence Act in 2006 on a bipartisan basis, prior to the Democratic Party becoming unsettled by the prospect of putting physical barriers in the way of illegal entrants. The wall isn’t the most important immigration enforcement measure. Requiring employers to verify the legal status of their employees would be much more consequential. But the wall has taken on great symbolic significance. What it denotes, perhaps more than anything else, is the growing irrationality of the Democrats on immigration.

Rich Lowry can be reached via email at comments.lowry@nationalreview.com.


• By RICH LOWRY


More in Opinion

Point of View
PRO Act is needed labor law reform

Young people across the peninsula need middle-class jobs that provide fair wages,… Continue reading

Point of View
Point of View: Fix the Permanent Fund dividend now

The other day I was discussing politics with an old friend who… Continue reading

Send letters to the editor at newsroom@terracestandard.com
PRO Act will harm Alaska workers, businesses

As Alaskans first and foremost, but also as small business owners who’ve… Continue reading

Email letters to editor@northislandgazette.com and we will publish online and in print.
Soldotna police, fire departments make for special memorial

Recently we attended the funeral for Lee Aley, it was an intimate… Continue reading

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks at an Anchorage news conference on Dec. 11, 2020. (Courtesy photo/Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy)
Dunleavy: Still fighting for Alaskan families

“I was left with little choice but to veto both the PFD and legislative per diem.”

(THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML)
Opinion: The politics of vaccination hesitancy

If variant causes hardships, politicians are partly to blame.

An election official lays out more “I voted” stickers on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Stickers for the 2020 general election featured designs by Alaskan artist Barbara Lavallee. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Ranked-choice voting isn’t that simple

The change isn’t simple, and Alaskans need to prepare for it.

Robert Myers (Courtesy Photo)
Opinion: Infrastructure package could mean opportunities for Alaska

We have some opportunities coming up that can help us with our perennial budget problems.

Alex Koplin is a founding member of Kenai Peninsula Votes. (courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: Honor America’s roots by voting

We need all our citizens to have their voices heard.

Bob Shavelson (courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: Don’t blame Alaskans for state’s environmental failures

Officials are opening doors to rampant corporate pollution under Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s “Unlocking Alaska” initiative.

Point of View
Point of View: Pandemic lock-down offered Christian Scientists time to reflect

In this year often defined by uncertainty, I have been blessed by… Continue reading