June 17th, 2019

A SECOND OPINION, The Lawrence Journal-World


With illegal immigration at its lowest level in a decade, it's nothing short of stunning that the federal government is shut down over funding for a border wall.

Yet here we are, entering a third week of the shutdown because President Donald Trump has inexplicably chosen to dig his heels in on getting $5 billion to build a wall along stretches of the U.S. border with Mexico that do not already have such a barrier in place.

"As long as it takes," Trump said last week when asked how long he was willing to let the shutdown last. "I mean, look, I'm prepared. I think the people of the country think I'm right. I think the people of this country think I'm right."

Except, polling shows the opposite. Major polls conducted last month by Quinnipiac, Harvard, NPR and others all showed that a majority of Americans do not support the wall. And the number of wall supporters shrinks even more when asked if it is worth shutting down the government over.

The reality is that immigration from Mexico has been decreasing since 2007, and the number of unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. is at its lowest level since 2004, according to the Pew Research Center.

Further, the majority of illegal immigration to the United States from Mexico occurs in and around heavily secured ports of entry like San Diego, El Paso and Brownsville, Texas, where 654 miles of wall, fencing and other barriers already exist. Spending billions to build a structure along vast, rural stretches of the border doesn't help with security at the sections of the border that most need help.

No one is arguing for unsecure borders. The newly installed Democratic Congress voted Thursday to approve a stopgap funding bill that would reopen the federal government and provide $1.3 billion for border security in the form of manpower and equipment but not a wall. Trump has said he won't sign it, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to let a bill come to the Senate floor that the president won't sign.

It's hard to know what the president's end game is. He couldn't get the border wall approved when Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate, so it seems odd to take this stance on the heels of a midterm election in which Democrats made their biggest gains in 40 years and took control of the House.

Trump may feel he is being true to his base of ardent supporters, among whom the border wall ranked high on their list of priorities. But his focus is sorely misplaced. Rather, his attention should be focused on the independent voters who took a chance on him in 2016 believing his style could prove effective at getting things done in Washington. Shutting down the federal government in an effort to get $5 billion for a wall that most Americans don't feel the country needs is the opposite of getting things done.

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