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From what’s known of it, I’m as angry about the border security deal reached last night by Congressional negotiators to avert a new partial federal government shutdown as much as any immigration realist and/or supporter of President Trump. Even so, I would urge the President to sign it. (If he can win a few small improvements over the next day or two, as he’s just suggested he’ll seek, fine – but nothing achievable is worth sinking the agreement.) Then I’d recommend that he move to keep his promise that “we’ll be building the wall anyway” by using statutory authority to use Defense Department and other federal assets and resources to engage in barrier construction and secure the border in various other ways. In addition, the Trump administration should redouble efforts to keep his opponents on the defensive politically by shining the spotlight even more brightly on border security gaps left wide open by deal provisions they’ve insisted on.

I know that in yesterday’s post I argued that the Congressional Democrats, who have increasingly made clear their desire to gut meaningful border security completely, would both own a new shutdown morally (in terms of responsibility for government workers and contractors temporarily denied paychecks) and possibly pay a heavy price politically. The trouble is, that contention assumed that the Democrats’ latest cynical gambit, a new, goalpost-moving demand to shrivel (further) the federal government’s ability to detain apprehended illegal aliens – including surging numbers of border crossers – until their status hearings are held, would prevent the negotiators from reaching any agreement.

Consequently, any number of such aliens, including convicted criminals, would be released into American society, with little reason to believe many of them would risk a deportation decision (which would not be first for many). The result, as I wrote yesterday, would be a big victory for the Democrats’ principal goal of maximizing the number of migrants who can set foot on American soil to begin with, who consequently could avail themselves of the full range of legal due process protections to which everyone within U.S. territory is entitled, who would be released before their status hearings, and who would be scot-free to live and work in the United States until the Open Borders crowd could implement yet another amnesty.

Instead, the negotiators came to a conclusion that they, at least – if not necessarily many in their respective parties – could accept. There’s no denying that its threadbare reported barrier appropriation figure ($1.375 billion) would leave the current border security situation just about as unacceptable as it is today. So would the reported new quota on detention beds, which represent a big part of Washington’s ability to ensure that individuals arrested for immigration-law and related transgressions show up for hearings.

Final judgment should be withheld until the official text of the deal is released – especially on the beds issue. But some of the worst possible outcomes – from an immigration realist perspective – appear to have been avoided. In particular, although previous votes by Democrats so far haven’t been enough to prevent closet Open Borders supporters like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from declaring walls to be “immoral,” the new agreement will make this childish position more difficult than ever to take. In addition, the current number of border detention beds is being cut, but not, it seems, by nearly as much as the Democrats recently sought, and the Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agency apparently will retain flexibility in their location.

Further, as its spokespeople have insisted, there’s a strong argument that President has ample legal authority to build and strengthen more in the way of barriers than the deal approves – even without taking the highly controversial step of declaring a national emergency. For example, as noted by one of my Twitter followers (“TruthHunterMan”), in a variety of circumstances, federal law states that “The Secretary of Defense may provide support for the counterdrug activities or activities to counter transnational organized crime of any other department or agency of the Federal Government or of any State, local, tribal, or foreign law enforcement agency.”

Moreover, this statute specifies that one of the purposes for which this assistance may be provided include “the transportation of supplies and equipment, for the purpose of facilitating counterdrug activities or activities to counter transnational organized crime within or outside the United States” and, more specifically, “Construction of roads and fences and installation of lighting to block drug smuggling corridors across international boundaries of the United States.”

In addition, as stated by White House Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, “We will take as much money as you can give us and then we will go find money someplace else legally in order to secure that southern barrier.” So let the search intensify.

Finally, the Trump administration has done a fair job of publicizing the dangers to public safety posed by inadequate border security, but much more is possible. For instance, couldn’t the administration vividly illustrate how limits on detention are forcing the release of dangerous aliens by publishing on a regular basis the names of these individuals and the charges against them? And maybe some mass releases could be conducted regularly, too – with officials reading this information to broadcast news audiences as the migrants in question are set free? That would sure be Must-See TV. 

This strategy would have the added virtues of freeing federal workers – especially low-wage workers employed both directly and indirectly through contractors – of the threat of real economic hardship; of avoiding the forced labor situation that results from requiring essential workers to report to their jobs even if their departments aren’t funded; and of ensuring that the quality of vital services like air traffic control and Department of Homeland Security missions including Coast Guard patrols isn’t dangerously degraded.

Even passage of the latest full Trump proposal wouldn’t have strengthened border security much in the near future. So signing the Congressional compromise clearly wouldn’t produce a fatal setback. The main challenge now before the President is to flip as much of the script as he can, and capitalize on all the opportunities before him to secure as much of the border as America can ASAP.

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