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It’s a wonder that Democrats haven’t staked out a negotiating position demanding the destruction of already-existing barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Rich Lowry mug

Rich Lowry

Their opposition to President Donald Trump’s border wall (or, more properly, his so-called wall) is now so total as to be nearly indistinguishable from opposition to any serious infrastructure at the border at all.

The partial government shutdown is fueled by a clash of visions over, ultimately, the legitimacy of borders and, proximately, physical barriers to make our southern border more secure.

Trump has the better part of the argument, but his lurch into the shutdown with no discernible strategy and his scattershot pronouncements make it unlikely that his view will carry the day.

Obviously, a 2,000-mile-long border wall rivaling the best work of the Ming Dynasty never made any sense, and was never going to happen. Nor, short of Trump finding a latter-day Gen. Winfield Scott to go occupy Mexico City, was Mexico going to suffer the humiliation of funding a Yanqui border wall.

This was all lurid fantasy, and Trump has conceded as much, although he will, at times, deny having conceded as much. His ambitions are now much more reasonable, involving the kind of up-to-date bollard or “steel slat” fencing that already exists in places. But he’s running into an opposition that is much less reasonable.

Triggered as always by Trump, and growing more dovish on immigration almost by the hour, Democrats are treating the notion of a wall as practically a human-rights abuse. President Barack Obama routinely droned people without generating as much high dudgeon as Trump does asking for $5 billion to better fortify our southern border.

Chuck Schumer calls the wall “medieval.” It’s true that the core idea — a physical barrier to impede the movement of people — isn’t a new technology. The basic concept proved out so long ago that there hasn’t been any need to revisit it.

Nancy Pelosi deems the wall “immoral.” She sounds like West Berlin Mayor Willy Brandt condemning the Berlin Wall as the “Wall of Shame” — when the East Germans built their border barrier to keep people in, whereas we only want to keep illegal entrants out.

If a wall is immoral, what standing does the current 350 miles of primary fencing have? Isn’t it just as hateful as what Trump proposes? The $5 billion the president wants wouldn’t even match what we already have — it would construct about 150 miles of new barriers where none currently exist.

A wall or fencing is relatively mild as far as immigration enforcement goes. It doesn’t involve deporting anyone. It doesn’t separate families. It doesn’t prosecute and detain anyone. It doesn’t deny any illegal immigrant currently working in the United States a job. All it does is seek to avoid getting in a situation where these other things are necessary in the first place.

A wall doesn’t close down the border, or close us off to the world. There are still ports of entry. People can still travel to and from Mexico. People can still, for that matter, fly to Paris. It just diminishes illegal entry at certain strategic points.

Robust fencing made an enormous difference in stopping illegal crossings in Yuma, Arizona. The area had only about 5 miles of fencing in the mid-2000s, then saw the extent of its fencing increase tenfold. Illegal crossings plummeted.

Yuma got that additional fencing thanks to the passage of the Secure Fence Act in 2006 on a bipartisan basis, prior to the Democratic Party becoming unsettled by the prospect of putting physical barriers in the way of illegal entrants.

The wall isn’t the most important immigration enforcement measure. Requiring employers to verify the legal status of their employees would be much more consequential.

But the wall has taken on great symbolic significance. What it denotes, perhaps more than anything else, is the growing irrationality of the Democrats on immigration.

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Syndicated columnist Rich Lowry can be reached at


(14) comments


the wall like many other policies of this administration has gone into the twilight zone. Nobody knows what is real any more, certainly not Trump. General Powel put it perfectly when he said, "We have come to live in a society based on insults, on lies, and on things that just aren't true. It creates an environment where deranged people feel empowered." Any guesses on who Mr. Powel is talking about?

Comment deleted.

Perhaps, Climate, since you are insisting in a more thorough search of the record, you will now provide the quotes and/or evidence that Obama and Clinton called for a sea-to-sea, 50-foot wall along the entire shared Mexico/U.S. border. Perhaps you will store this quote from Obama and those from Clinton for future use, when your right-wing brethren say that Democrats are and historically have been for open borders with no restrictions against who comes into our country. I just KNOW, having this solidly contradictory information in your hands, that you will rush in and apprise them of their mistaken beliefs, setting the record straight for them. We expect that out of you, Climate.


No, they never wanted a wall. They wanted border security and an end to mass illegal immigration. What is you point anyway? Obama request republicans join him to solve the immigration problem for 8 straight years. But the obstructionist republican haters refused.

Rick Czeczok

Wrong, read the 2013 legislation.


Well, Ricky, read the following. Obama, by the way, deported record numbers of illegal aliens, far more than Trump's ineffective show-boating efforts:

June 2013: Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, 68-32

Backed by Democrats and 14 Republicans, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act passed the Senate on a 68-32 vote on June 27, 2013.

The bill directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to submit two reports on border security strategy, including one on where fencing, infrastructure and technology should be used; authorized the use of the National Guard to help secure the border; called for an increase in the number of Border Patrol agents at the southern border, and other border security measures.

It also included provisions to allow immigrants in the country illegally to adjust their immigration status, if they met certain criteria.

"The bipartisan bill that passed today was a compromise … Today, the Senate did its job. It’s now up to the House to do the same," said then-President Barack Obama.

But House Republicans again opposed the Senate immigration proposal, arguing that border security needed to be addressed first before legalizing the status of millions of immigrants.

"I’ve made it clear and I’ll make it clear again, the House does not intend to take up the Senate bill," then-House Speaker John Boehner said July 2013. "The House is going to do its own job in developing an immigration bill."

He reiterated his position in November 2013: "The idea that we’re going to take up a 1,300-page bill that no one had ever read, which is what the Senate did, is not going to happen in the House," Boehner said. "And frankly, I’ll make clear we have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill."

So now, Ricky, are you going to wring your hands over the House thwarting a really stupid effort to put up an ineffective wall, rather than using that money at more effective deterrent efforts? Was Boehner and were the GOP House majority unfair in battling Obama in 2013? Was Obama trying to open up the border to let everybody in with his efforts? Are you a member of the peanut gallery?


Typically, when Ricky is called out for his nonsense, he goes silent and presumably runs to the weeds to hide out with Buggs and Snow Cougar, who have taken up permanent residence there.


"The basic concept proved out so long ago that there hasn’t been any need to revisit it." But there is. No one has bothered to explain how this wall will work. A wall through mountains and deserts and river valleys with no one to watch it isn't a barrier anymore than the mountains and deserts and river valleys. Sections will be hundreds of miles from the nearest person. A wall has no magical presence that will stop people from going under, over, or through it. Ask a trump supporter HOW this wall will work if it is not watched day and night along all 2000 miles. The answer you get will be...magical.


Don't need a wall in remote, isolated and unpopulated areas. Most do not cross there, because you'd need to be a survival expert. Most cross at populated areas. Re-read the example about Yuma, AZ.


So the opposition to the wall is irrational? Here is the rationality of one of America's most prominent Trump apologists, Rich Lowry:

"Trump has the better part of the argument, but his lurch into the shutdown with no discernible strategy and his scattershot pronouncements make it unlikely that his view will carry the day.

"Obviously, a 2,000-mile-long border wall rivaling the best work of the Ming Dynasty never made any sense, and was never going to happen . . .

"This was all lurid fantasy, and Trump has conceded as much, although he will, at times, deny having conceded as much. "

Have you ever read a more compelling argument to build the wall? Lowry then assures us that Trump really just wants to do some touching up and enlarging, that the wall isn't even the most important element in securing the border. Right. Has anybody ever heard Trump say this? Even if Trump came out this afternoon and said this was his view, would it be his view tonight or tomorrow? This is a president for whom we have to get everything in writing with his gigantic signature beneath it before we can hold him to his word. If he did make these concessions, and if he agreed to give the Dreamers some relief in the bargain, the Dems should agree and the Trump government shut-down would end. Pronto.


Lowry spouting off as usual. Somebody should tell him the Berlin wall wasn't just built to keep people in.


Yes it was. Well maybe not why it was originally built but that's what it's usage was for


You suppose your answer will be the same one they say about the Trump wall if he gets it built?


So.... Trump...the modern day Pancho Villa.
Who knew?

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