A wall is not immigration reform

Published: 1/8/2019 9:37:00 AM

The Great Wall of China, more than 13,000 miles long across northern China, was originally conceived in the third century B.C. to keep out invaders. The very best technology of the day.

Hadrian’s Wall in England was the northwest frontier of the Roman empire for nearly 300 years. Seventy-three miles long from sea to sea, it cut off the northern Celtic barbarians from the Romanized southern parts of Britain.

The Berlin Wall in Germany from 1961 to 1989 trapped desperate would-be refugees of Soviet dominated communist East Berlin who were seeking freedom in democratic West Germany. The very best technology of its day.

Great walls have had storied pasts, but they should not have much of a place in our future. Today, there are better ways to control our borders if we fear migration — and that’s a big if.

If bad people are crossing our southern border, which no doubt some have and are, we should control that movement, and we are. Today there are miles of security fencing, high-tech surveillance, border patrols, drones and other methods of monitoring the border. And more can be done. But polls tell us most Americans don’t see a need for a latter-day Berlin Wall in America, and most experts say it would not be the most effective or cost-efficient way to keep people out.

Our current president’s demand for a border wall is not about protecting America or better regulating migration from the south, but about political posturing to a xenophobic base.

Walls are for keeping out invading hordes. That’s not our problem, no matter how much Donald Trump tries to gin up that imagery. We have an immigration problem. And we need a comprehensive immigration policy fix.

The president and many in his conservative camp seem to fear migrants of nearly every sort: illegal ones for sure, but also those, legal and illegal, who are not talented Christian white people from non “shit-hole countries.”

Seen from a narrow perspective, some of his ideas seem to have some validity. Keep out all Muslims because some Muslims hate America and took down the Twin Towers. But many Americans practice Islam and serve in our military to protect their home country. And many white Christian American crazies have terrorized concerts, dance halls and elementary schools.

No, we don’t need walls from sea to shining sea. We need smart, comprehensive immigration reform. New laws and procedures where liberals and conservatives can find common ground to keep out the bad and allow in the good. We need to allow the Dreamers to stay and prosper in America, because for all intents and purposes, it’s their home, too.

We need a policy that makes it easy and attractive to enter legally to work where honest, hard-working people are needed — whether for our farms, nursing homes, landscaping businesses, hotels, high-tech firms, universities, factories or Mar-a-Lago.

We need policy that allows us to be that biblical Shining City on a Hill that shows the world what compassion for refugees fleeing destitution and persecution is all about.

Even Republican icon Ronald Reagan saw an America enriched by diversity when he said in his farewell address that he saw America as that city on a hill “...teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

And yes, we need a policy that provides for modern high-tech border security that’s sophisticated and smart enough to keep out criminals and drugs and terrorists – whether in the Southwest deserts or the Northwest airports.

If our current president were as smart as he thinks he is or a true patriot who cares about making America greater, he would drop this childish insistence on his wall, stop pandering to his base — a minority of the country — and do something meaningful about immigration. He could start by appointing a thoughtful, non-partisan “immigration reform czar” to work with Republicans and Democrats in Congress on a comprehensive reform compromise. And then he could sign that bill – because it would offer a sophisticated solution to a complex problem that his dumb wall will never fix.


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