Hand Border Wall Decisions over to Commissions or Governors?

By Dan Cadman on January 20, 2019

In an interview with Bret Baier of Fox News' "Special Report" last week, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he didn't think that use of the words "immoral" (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's term) or "racist" (former Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke's term) were appropriate in connection with a border wall. It was a pretty clear repudiation, or at least walk-back, of those extreme left arguments.

Pressed by Baier on how to end the stalemate over border wall funding that has led to a protracted partial government shutdown, Hoyer spoke in vague terms about alternative means of border security. He was then asked whether a fair compromise might be to provide a specific amount of money to the Border Patrol and say to that organization, "spend it on border security the way that you, the experts, think best" (my phrasing, not Baier's, but I think it's a fair representation of what he asked). Hoyer suggested instead that perhaps the decision should be left to some as-yet-unformed commission or perhaps even to the relevant border state governors.

Those suggestions sound superficially attractive, as befits platitudes and bloviation when emanating from a seasoned pol. But are they reasonable? I think not.

The last blue-ribbon commission on immigration, the Jordan Commission (about which we at CIS and other similarly aligned organizations have spoken positively and at length in the past), issued some exemplary reports with a myriad of sound and practical recommendations in 1995. The reports make good reading, but juxtapose them against either legislative or executive action to actually adopt those recommendations and the disconnect is startling even though 23 years have passed — plenty of time, even in the inordinately slow legislative context.

A commission seems to me to be close cousin to a committee, about which Sir Barnett Cocks once said, "A committee is a cul-de-sac down which ideas are lured and then quietly strangled."

What's more, before such a commission even began its work, it would have to be provided for by law, because you can be sure that if it were a commission unilaterally appointed by President Trump, its findings would be dead on arrival. So much time, money, and energy would be spent haggling, enacting, and then setting it up that the commission itself might quite conceivably gobble up a substantial amount of the funding that could have paid for border barrier repair or construction; that's what I call irony. Meantime, the flood of vulnerable human beings being smuggled and trafficked across our border would continue unabated.

Neither am I enamored of leaving the decision to state governors. Several of them have repeatedly asserted that states have no role to play in immigration matters, which they use as justification for refusing to permit law enforcement cooperation with ICE agents or for refusing to send National Guard troops to aid the Border Patrol with support activities. In California, both the governor and legislature have gone out of their way in every way possible to enact laws and policies to openly defy immigration and border enforcement. Why, then, would the federal government leave this decision to such officials? To do so would be to give the fox free run of the chicken coop, something that Hoyer well knows.

The whole issue of a physical barrier is all the more pressing since media accounts are now describing at least one, possibly three, more caravans forming in Central America to head north. One organizer of the largest was arrested attempting to cross with the caravan after border officials discovered an outstanding warrant for his arrest on the charge of rape. Several others have also been taken into custody by foreign police officials for criminal histories. Yet they are walking, side-by-side, with all of the mothers and children whom they have enticed into attempting the trek of nearly 2,000 miles. If this isn't "immoral", and evidence of cynics, criminals, and cartels using these vulnerable people as human shields to provide cover, what is?

If I were king of the forest (or, more aptly, president of this republic), I would cut to the chase, declare the national emergency and be done with it. The longer you dangle the idea without acting on it, the less credible it sounds even though, in truth, the emergency exists.