I really had high hopes things would calm down between the president and the Speaker of the House this past week. I mean, c'mon. It was Valentine's Day. Like many, I heard President Trump was likely to sign the House's budget plan. And I'm sure, like many others, I figured that would only calm the waters until the budget comes up again in September. Alas, 'twas not to last even so long.
The president delivered on his threat to declare a state of emergency in order to get the funding not included in the spending bill. Ironically, this tactic could potentially put $8 billion toward the border wall project, according to the New York Times, while Trump's original request was for $5.7 billion. Great job, everybody.
It would seem the art of the deal has paid off, but the bout's not done. Some in Congress are a bit tentative about the situation, others are more optomistic.
"As I’ve said many times, I have concerns about the precedent that could be set with the use of emergency action to re-appropriate funds," Senator Chuck Grassley said. "Accordingly, I will study the president’s declaration closely. The Constitution grants Congress the authority to appropriate federal dollars, so I’m sure such action will be litigated in the courts."
Conversely, northwest Iowa's now committeeless voice in the House Steve King feels a bit differently.
“I have been asking the President to declare a national emergency to address border security for months, and I support his doing so," King said. "President Trump is on solid constitutional ground, and I hope he uses this authority to build all of the wall that’s needed, which means extending it until illegal aliens stop going around the end."
Grassley and King seemed to agree on one point. That being President Trump takes the situation seriously, while Democrats do not.
"It defies reason that Democrats are so committed to an open borders agenda," Grassley concluded.
So, let's apply a little reason to the idea of the wall.
Even if the entire southern border of the United States is cut off west to east by a big, beautiful wall, it wouldn't eliminate the problem highlighted by King — going around the end. In this case, going around the end would get you to the western or eastern border. And let's not forget, as reported by USA Today, the Trump Administration's own numbers showed a majority of foreign terrorist threats attempt to enter the U.S. by air. I don't think the plan was for a wall at 30,000 feet. Not only that, Forbes reported the number of undocumented persons from Mexico dropped by 1.3 million between 2010 and 2017. Let's apply a bit more reason. We've heard the argument that women joining migrant caravans are often targets of abuse and violence, and the caravans should be dissuaded for that very reason. In reality, it's not uncommon for those same women to be victims of abuse and violence at home. That's why some decided to join the caravan, according to NPR. So let's be very careful as we debate what the most compassionate course of action might be. On top of all that, let's not forget another NPR report showed the most major source of illegal residents isn't coming across that southern border in the first place. People overstaying their visas has outnumbered border apprehensions by the hundreds of thousands for several years.
A wall will do nothing to address visa overstays, which by the numbers is the greater contributor to illegal residency.
To be fair, King has proposed a sort of deposit system for visa holders, in which the funds paid upfront for entering the country are returned once the party is confirmed to have left the United States — or used for apprehension and deportation if they overstay the visa. Yet, that's not the goal this administration sought in declaring a national emergency. It was to deliver on a campaign promise – the wall. We've been told the wall will fix things. The wall will restore our country. The wall will end all the troubles we perceive.
I'm here to tell you it won't.
We've become far too concerned with making people earn their way into a country which we are certain belongs to us. Its a country in which, while we speed, lie and cheat on our taxes, we expect those at the border to obey the law of the land and do things "the right way" if they are to cross. It's thoughts like this which put the government above the people. Helping those in need should be our goal, not following the law.
That sounds strange to the ear, I know. We're supposed to be a nation of laws. We're supposed to be a Christian nation. Yet those monikers become problematic to a political conservative in light of examples left to us in the (admittedly debatable) history of St. Valentine. His government's laws prohibited the aid of Christians, because they were seen as a threat to the Roman way of life. He did it anyway, knowing morality and legality are not one and the same. It's a distinction I believe needs greater emphasis these days. So ponder the true sacrifice of St. Valentine when next you unwrap a chocolate heart.