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Security is more complex than simply arguing over a wall

January 5, 2019

The Independent of Ashland, Kentucky, published this editorial Dec. 30 regarding the partial government shutdown:

It is beyond ugly in Washington, D.C., these days (what’s new) as the nation lurches through a partial government shutdown with apparently no end in sight.

On one side of the wall, quite literally, are Donald Trump and conservative Republicans, who want $5 billion for a border wall. On the other side are Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, who are opposed to the wall.

We will get to the merits of building such a wall in a moment. But the primary thought we have today is the obvious: that our system is hopelessly broken due to the sharp political divides that have so harmed this nation. On both sides of this political wall are extreme forces: on the left, political supporters and causes that are, in our view, in support of open borders and welcoming lots of immigrants with few questions. On the other side of the wall are hardliners who want to build a wall and shut down the inflow of people who are coming into the country illegally. ...

Our humble view is the need for secure borders is obvious. We believe both sides would agree on this. Yet there are complexities at hand that hardliners aren’t taking into consideration. One very blatant example is the American border cities that are economically dependent on the back-and-forth flows of people and goods and services across the border on a daily basis. Taking a lockdown approach will have huge consequences on this commerce. Taking a firmer approach to immigration also has caused a lot of headaches for the American agriculture industry.

We also believe, however, that Trump and conservatives are right in that there needs to be a secure border and more strict enforcement of border policies, which send the message that the only way to come into the United States is through legal means. There are legitimate national security concerns that come with open, porous borders. Are they at times overstated? We believe so. No one, for example, is proposing a wall on the Canadian border but certainly, if a terrorist was set on coming into the United States over rough, remote terrain, the Canadian border is just as viable an option. So is getting into the country by sea or air. Would it be as easy as coming in from Mexico? No, but it is most certainly possible. The question then becomes, where does this end?

Do we fence in the whole nation?

In theory a wall along the southern border has merits, but in our view the proposed solution seems very old fashioned and outdated. Could it help solve people coming into the country illegally? Yes, it could. Is it a practical, economically feasible solution when we have so much technology available to us? We don’t think so, but we could still be convinced otherwise.

Herein lies the problem: The wall is a political mantra. “Build the wall.” This is a simplistic approach to a very complex problem. The nation clearly needs secure borders. We suspect the answer, though, is found not in a “Build the Wall” approach but instead in technology, strategic deployment of people, and maybe a partial wall that stretches through the most difficult areas to patrol. Another part of the solution is finding a manageable way to enhance legal options for immigration — ones involving adequate screening — and which make the idea of sneaking into the country illegally a foolish cause.

All of this points to thoughtfulness and the need for bipartisanship aimed at furthering the nation’s best interests. Given the recent events in Washington, D.C., though, hoping for these types of thoughtful, cooperative solutions has become the equivalent of wishing upon a star. None of this will change until we all agree to put down our political ideologies and demand bipartisanship from all our elected officials.

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