Vela: Top Democrats’ Support for Trump’s Border Wall an Abomination
It is becoming abundantly clear that Republican Leadership does not have—nor has ever had—any intention of allowing DREAMers a pathway to citizenship. Despite the fact that 196 Members of Congress, some of whom include Republicans, have signed a procedural petition to bring the DREAM Act to the House floor for a simple up or down vote, Speaker Ryan refuses to allow the House to vote on the DREAM Act. A simple vote is our only request.
Without having taken a single step toward resolving the status of DREAMers, it is difficult to believe any Democrat would be willing to give President Trump a nickel to fund his “big beautiful wall.” Surprisingly, three of my colleagues in Congress chose to reward Trump’s intransigence and inaction—with respect to DREAMers—with support for the President’s proposed border wall. The border wall is a physical representation of the cultural and racial insults President Trump has spewed since his campaign announcement. A physical wall is also a wasteful expenditure of taxpayer dollars, endangers wildlife, stomps on property rights of private landowners, and isolates our partner, Mexico.
Last week, Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin publicized an effort to provide a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers in exchange for a down payment of $1.6 billion for Trump’s border wall. The wall Mr. Durbin proposed would be constructed in South Texas—and most disturbingly—through the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. On Friday, in a desperate move to avoid a government shutdown, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer visited the White House and “put the wall on the table in exchange for strong DACA protections…it was a generous offer.” And in a fit of emotion just hours after the midnight shutdown, Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) told reporters, “I’ll take a bucket, take bricks, and start building it [the wall] myself.”
I am confounded by the negotiating tactics of my fellow Democrats. Beyond the stupidity of offering unmatched concessions and negotiating against themselves, my colleagues have begun to refer to the border wall in the same way Trump’s base speak about DREAMers and undocumented people. Their apparent acceptance of the border wall and disregard of the impact on border communities demonstrates a fundamental lack of thought, logic, and empathy.
Mr. Trump’s border wall is not a cost-effective method of addressing the real issues agents face on the U.S.-Mexico border. Just two weeks ago the president of the National Treasury Employees Union, Mr. Anthony Reardon, testified that the greatest obstacle to our nation’s border security is the Department of Homeland Security’s inability to fill the thousands of border agent and officer vacancies, which were authorized by Congress. In addition to the vacancies, Mr. Reardon mentioned the shortage of canines used to detect threats to national security. Reports of an internal White House budget guidance document for Fiscal Year 2019 reveal that the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) asked Department of Homeland Security officials to reduce or delay funding requests for technology and equipment meant to secure the border, including canine units and Coastal Interceptor boats used to apprehend drug smugglers. OMB’s request reveals that President Trump’s campaign promise that Mexico would pay for the wall is a lie. Rather than using taxpayer dollars on proven tools or in providing salary incentives to maintain the workforce that facilitates legitimate trade and travel, Mr. Trump is attempting to cut agents’ resources in order to pay for his wall. Government officers, canine units, and technology—not a border fence—are key to intercepting the flow of contraband into our country.
Despite the impression given by supporters of a border wall, there is another massive obstacle to the barrier’s construction beyond the billions of dollars that the wall would cost to construct. Sixty-six percent of the land along our southern border is privately owned. A wall would greatly impose on the property rights of these American citizens. Those who have been able to remain living south of the wall will be stuck in limbo between the Rio Grande River and the border wall. Wall construction would require the federal government to claim eminent domain and seize the property of other private landowners. Families along the border would be uprooted from their homes, forcing them into long, arduous legal battles to defend their land.
I am committed to protect DREAMers, but we can do that without sacrificing border communities and safety to satisfy an irrational demand for the construction of a border wall. I am disappointed that some members of my own party think so little of border residents that they have now offered up a physical border wall—helping President Trump fulfill one of his most repugnant campaign promises, without securing a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients.