Make the Argument for the Wall, and Stick to the Facts

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters in Washington, D.C., January 4, 2019. (Carlos Barria/REUTERS)

President Trump has a pretty good opportunity with his Oval Office address tonight — an opportunity that he probably should have taken advantage of earlier in his presidency.

The debate about a border barrier, fence, or whatever we’re calling it this week is generating more heat than light. Trump did, in the past, describe his border wall as 30-feet tall and made of concrete. Just a week ago he insisted that some portions would be concrete. He should lay out that after further consultation with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, he understands the country doesn’t need a barrier like that. Border Patrol officers prefer steel slats so that they can see what’s happening on the other side.

Tonight, President Trump should heavily quote and paraphrase the June 2017 Congressional testimony of Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council — the labor union that represents U.S. Border Patrol.

. . . as an agent who worked in two of the busiest sectors in the history of the Border Patrol, I can personally tell you how effective border barriers are. When I got to the Tucson sector, we had next to nothing by way of infrastructure, and I can confidently say that for every illegal border crosser that I apprehended, three got away. The building of barriers and large fences, a bipartisan effort, allowed agents in part to dictate where illegal crossings took place and doubled how effective I was able to be in apprehending illegal border crossers. As an agent who has extensive experience working with and without border barriers and as the person elected to represent rank-and-file Border Patrol agents, I can personally attest to how effective a wall, in strategic locations, will be.

. . . With a barrier, it’s estimated that all we need is one agent per three, four linear miles. Without a barrier, I need one agent per linear mile. So the cost effectiveness of a barrier in manpower is—it’s extremely successful.

In addition to the 353 miles of primary fencing that we already have, we believe that we need an additional 300 miles of primary fencing. This fencing should be strategically placed in areas such as Del Rio and Laredo, Texas and the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation in Arizona.

In other words, don’t take the president’s word for it. Listen to the men and women who get up every morning and patrol the border.

There’s a strong case for the wall, but it isn’t helped by wildly exaggerated claims of terrorists coming over the border, false boasts that all living presidents agree with the president, or that the specious claim that because of the renegotiation of NAFTA, Mexico is now somehow paying for the wall by the transitive property. Nor should the president overhype the problem. The number of illegal immigrants in the United States is believed to be slightly lower now than a decade or so ago.

Stick to the facts: Tens of thousands of people attempt to enter the country illegally over our southern border every month, adding up to hundreds of thousands every year. For a while in 2017, less than 20,000 people per month were caught trying to cross. Now it’s back up to more than 60,000 in the last two months. No doubt many who attempt to enter are no threat to anyone, but some are indeed violent criminals. We want people to enter through legal processes, so that we can check for criminal records and outstanding warrants, and keep out the violent, the drunk drivers, the drug dealers, the thieves, and others who are dangerous. This is just common sense, and a duty of the government to protect the innocent. We also have a duty to make the task of immigrant-smugglers as difficult as possible, to end the cycle of abuse of desperate migrants.

The argument over the wall has turned into an argument over Trump, which is a formula for continued stalemate. The president can win this debate by taking on Nancy Pelosi’s assertion that the wall was immoral, which was a bridge too far for even the Washington Post editorial board.

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