Better do both

Greg Smith, Assistant Opinions Editor

At every turn, congressional Democrats have mishandled DACA negotiations. They have defined themselves by the increasingly indefensible position of opposition to President Donald Trump at all costs, no matter what he says. And although he is flawed, he has handled the negotiations on DACA correctly.

Debates over building a border wall and extending DACA became muddled in the government’s budget crisis. No budget was passed, only a two-year deal to raise the debt ceiling and avoid a government shutdown. The two parties reached no agreement on DACA or a border wall. These outcomes were likely. The Democrats do not benefit politically from making a deal to build a wall, which is why Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer took it off the table. Republicans benefit politically from securing the border, so they are offering it.

But Trump is not likely to deport any of the DACA recipients, since that would be the biggest political blunder possible in this situation. His amnesty offer was even more generous than President Barack Obama’s, since Trump’s also includes those who were eligible for DACA but did not register and a pathway to citizenship. The deal Republicans have offered is sensible, even if the U.S. does not continue to offer DACA.

We can have it both ways. The government should not be in the business of splitting up families, but it does have a right and a duty to protect its citizens by securing the border.

Deporting 800,000 people is neither practical nor productive. Democrats would welcome the political benefit that would come from images of immigrants being loaded onto buses and sent back to Mexico, but the cost of such an effort would ultimately be greater than the benefit it would bring, which would be small, if existent. Under Trump’s proposal, all of the so-called “dreamers” would be given a path to citizenship, which is not necessary unless he is afraid of another president winning an election on similar campaign promises and actually following through. The offer of citizenship could be good political posturing; Trump wants to make the public think keeping the border un-secured is more important to Democrats than protecting the “dreamers,” whatever they may be.

But whether illegal residents are given legal status or formal citizenship, the amnesty program extends beyond 800,000 DACA recipients. The total number is somewhere around 1.8 million. And the “end” to chain migration would still potentially allow the 4 million people on the 17-year waiting list into the country.

Democrats also insist that a wall, for whatever reason, would be ineffective at stopping illegal immigration. Their logic is unclear. Walls of 14 feet or more tend to keep people on one side or the other. They may also not be interested in securing the border and be afraid of a wall actually working. If that is the case, Democrats are trying to steer the debate away from whether to secure the border, and they seem to be succeeding.

Securing the border from illegal immigration should be a priority for the federal government; as Trump pointed out in his State of the Union, there are crimes committed by illegal immigrants, and this should not happen at all. The role of the government is to protect its own citizens. When a government fails to perform a basic duty, some sort of change needs to be made. In this case, the border must be secured.

This is not to say that legal immigration is bad. Immigration grows our population and economy, and it’s always been important to the U.S., which was founded by immigrants and is now inhabited by their descendants.

Although the U.S. is a nation of immigrants, it is a nation of citizens. If our government is for the people, it should take every measure possible, while respecting our freedom, to ensure our safety.