GOP Rivals Unite, Rhetorically, Behind Donald Trump’s Demand for a Border Wall

AP Photo/Gregory Bull
AP Photo/Gregory Bull

Even Gov. Jeb Bush has now joined the near-universal GOP chorus of rhetorical support for a border wall, following the Pope’s public scolding of Donald Trump’s popular plan for a stronger barrier between the United States and Latin America.

When asked about the pope’s reported comments, Bush said he supports a “wall and fencing,” but then he hedged by saying “where it’s appropriate.”

Despite the caveat, that’s a big rhetorical change from last August, when Bush scoffed at Trump’s popular plan. Back then, Bush said that;

building a wall will cost hundreds of billions of dollars. It’s not realistic, it won’t be implemented. And we need border security to be able to deal with getting this country back on track… The simple fact is that his proposal is unrealistic . . . it will violate people’s civil liberties, it will create friction with our third largest trading partner [Mexico] that is not necessary, and I think he’s wrong about this.

For many years, progressives and business advocates of greater immigration have strongly opposed a border wall, as well as checks at airports and seaports, despite overwhelming public support. Instead, they’ve backed various alternatives — for example, short stretches of light fencing, airborne patrols, surveillance cameras, more ground patrols — that have successfully allowed more than 10 million illegal migrants to reach U.S. workplaces and and shops.

For example, Bush’s 2016 border platform calls for greater surveillance, not an actual border fence.

I come to different conclusions than Mr. Trump and have put forth the most comprehensive and realistic strategy for dealing with the problem of illegal immigration.

A great nation must secure its borders for national security and public health reasons. We don’t have to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on fencing when we can use new technology, improve the Border Patrol’s access to streams and rivers on the border [and] beef up our patrols.

In his campaign, Bush has also endorsed a larger flow of foreign workers across U.S. borders. In fact, his 2016 economic planform calls for additional immigration to help boost annual economic growth to 4 percent.

Trump has repeatedly championed construction of a border wall, and has even insisted that Mexico’s government will pay for the project. But Trump has not actually called for a complete 2,000 mile wall from sea-to-sea. Instead, he said in August 2015 that,

But you also have natural terrain which is automatically a barrier, which is a good thing. So you’re talking about 1,000. And then you look at the Great Wall of China that was built 2,500 years ago. It’s 13,000 miles. And we’re really talking about something more than a little more than 1,000 miles. So it is something that can be absolutely done, not done at tremendous cost.

In August, Sen. Marco Rubio said at a GOP debate that “we need a fence,” but did not say how much of the border it would cover. Rubio’s rhetorical support for a wall came after public opposition blocked his 2013 amnesty-and-labor-importation bill, which did not fund a full border fence, but did create many legal loopholes in the border, including an doubling of legal migrants and a huge increase in the flow of foreign workers.

On Thursday, after the pope’s comments hit the media, Rubio responded at a rally in South Carolina saying, “There’s no nation on Earth that’s more compassionate on immigration than we are… We accept a million people a year into the U.S., legally, every year,” Rubio said. “Mexico doesn’t do that. No other nation in the world does that.”

When responding to the pope’s comments, Rubio suggested he would support a full wall, but he didn’t use the actual words. “This country does not just have a right but an obligation to control the process by which the people enter the United States and by which people immigrate into the United States,” he said.

His immigration policy, does not call for a 2,000-mile border fence or wall. It says Rubio will “finish all 700 miles of walls on our southern border … [and] Install $4 billion in new cameras and sensors on the border.”

The “700 mile” phrase likely refers to 2008 law that mandates a fence be built along roughly 700 miles of border. But the mandate does not requires the fence to be a wall, to be double-layered or even be effective. So far, Congress has only provide funding for construction of an effective double-layer fence for part of the supposed 700-mile fence, mostly in California.

Dr. Ben Carson responded to the pope’s reported comments by saying, “enforcing our immigration laws is not in contradiction with love and kindness.”

In September, Carson backed the construction of a tough border fence, saying;

I was in Arizona a few weeks ago at the border. The fences there were not manned. So, I don’t see any purpose in having that. Yuma County, Arizona. They stop 97 percent of the illegal immigrants through there. They put in a double fence with a road so that there was quick access by the enforcement people. If we don’t seal the border, the rest of this stuff clearly doesn’t matter. We have the ability to do it, we don’t have the will to do it.

While campaigning in South Carolina, Sen. Ted Cruz evaded reporters’ question on the Pope’s comments. “Listen that’s between Donald and the Pope, I’m not going to get into the middle of that, I’ll leave it to the two of them to work it out.”

Cruz’s border policy calls for a “wall that works,” but does not clearly call for a wall or fence to be constructed along the 2,000 mile border.

The unsecured border with Mexico invites illegal immigrants, criminals, and terrorists to tread on American soil. Millions of people from all over the world, including from hostile nations and terrorist havens, have been apprehended at our southern border – and many who make it through are never caught. This is a failure of the highest order. I will fulfill the promise Congress made to the American people almost 10 years ago by completing all 700 miles of priority fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, and dedicate the resources necessary to replace all single-layer fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border to build a fence that keeps people out and that is technology-supported and law enforcement-accessible. If other nations, such as Israel, can build an effective border wall, the United States certainly can.

Cruz’s platform also says he “will take a hard look at our foreign-worker programs to ensure that they provide the most value to the American people.” However, he does not say he will reduce the annual inflow of guest-workers. Under current rules, companies each year legally bring in 700,000 foreign workers, through the border fences, to take jobs sought by some of the 4 million Americans who turn 18 each year.

Gov. John Kasich has also said a fence is required — even though he wants to offer an amnesty to illegal immigrants inside the United States, and also allow companies to bring many “guest workers” from overseas. In August, he said on CNN that;

First of all, we ought to finish the fence. The 11 million who are here, we ought to find out who they are. If they’ve been law abiding over a period of time they ought to be legalized and ought to be able to stay here. If you have violated the law, we’re going to ship you out. Once that fence gets built, we should make it clear, anybody who sneaks in, you’re going back home. And in addition we need a guest worker program so that people can come in and work and be able to go back to support their family.

The border-wall controversy began when the Pope told reporters that “a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not of building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the Gospel. As far as what you said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not getting involved in that.”




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