With President Donald Trump expected to issue an executive order today that his proposed border wall be constructed, the new administration is bucking bipartisan recommendations to focus efforts elsewhere to curb illegal immigration.
Rather than build a long border wall, the Trump administration should turn its enforcement efforts to better track who is in the country and eliminate the draw to undocumented workers by monitoring who hires them, two leaders of a bipartisan task force said this week.
Henry Cisneros and Haley Barbour, who lead a Bipartisan Policy Center task force on immigration, spoke on the heels of a report released by the Washington think tank that describes how Democrats and Republicans can work together in an otherwise challenging political environment. They advised that the new administration should “not rush into something because the politics of the moment demand it,” as Cisneros put it.
“My guess is budgets and wiser heads will prevail before we have a wall across the entire border,” Cisneros said.
Trump, however, plans to sign an executive order today that directs the Homeland Security Department to begin construction of his proposed wall along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border.
Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting reported this week that former border officials say money would be better spent on more agents and better technology to patrol the border, especially in places where there is little to no illicit activity. Even Trump’s recently confirmed homeland security secretary, John Kelly, said a wall alone will not work. And building the wall, as Reveal found in reviewing the border fence map, will be a tall order.
Neither Cisneros, a former housing and urban development secretary during the Clinton administration, nor Barbour, a former Republican governor of Mississippi, sees Congress tackling one big piece of legislation as was proposed during both the Obama and George W. Bush presidencies.
Still, Barbour said there is “significant ground” for Republicans and Democrats to work together to pass a package of legislative reforms to fix what they described as a “broken immigration system.” But they warned that compromise will be key.
“We want serious people to lower their voices and work on serious things,” Cisneros said. “Both sides of the debate have to temper their ideal world.”
Barbour said the most immediate issue is to make permanent provisions to protect young adults who were brought to the U.S. without documentation when they were children; President Barack Obama shielded them from deportation through executive action in 2012. Trump has said he wants to “work something out” with the so-called Dreamers who were protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Barbour and Cisneros both said legislation could be paired and rolled out incrementally if first steps prove successful. For instance, border security could go with legislation aimed benefiting Dreamers. But expanding the number of employers that participate in the government’s E-Verify system to identify documented workers may be more effective than building a wall.
Andrew Becker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @ABeckerReveal.