So no wall. Not for now.
President Donald Trump’s signature campaign promise is shelved because neither Mexico nor Congress is willing to pay for it.
Truth is, America shouldn’t need a wall on its southern border. Laws should suffice. The problem is that everyone’s been ignoring them for so long that a wall, of some sort, is in fact necessary. In that Trump is right.
But it’s hardly a cure all. Somewhere between a third and half of people living in America illegally, according to estimates, didn’t wade the Rio Grande to get here. They took American Airlines, a bus from Canada or the Cunard line, then overstayed their visas.
Sanctuary cities made an intractable situation worse. Unless you’re a violent criminal, you’re pretty much guaranteed safe harbor from federal immigration officials if you live in one of them — so long as you stay put.
The trouble with that is twofold: First — obviously — it encourages more visa overstays and border crossings (though crossings have reportedly dropped since Trump came into office). Secondly, and more important, it makes families living here illegally second-class citizens. It creates and maintains an artificial underclass. That’s the last thing anyone wants.
It’s clear by now, even to people who took candidate Trump both literally and seriously, that the comprehensive immigration enforcement he promised isn’t going to happen. And if Trump isn’t going to deliver it, no one is.
So what do we do with all these families huddled in our cities and suburbs? How long can we keep pretending this is normal?
Years ago, you needed a sponsor to emigrate to America — someone who would vouch for you; help you get settled and gainfully employed. It wasn’t a perfect system; there was still some illegal immigration, but sponsorship encouraged quick assimilation into the American family. We should consider doing that again, not for people coming from foreign lands, but for families already living here. I can think of a couple of families in my town I’d be happy to sponsor for citizenship.
America works as a melting pot. Us and them doesn’t cut it, and that’s what we’ve got now. When and if our borders are finally made secure, and when and if our immigration laws are taking seriously again — I can see it: “one, two three, starting . . . now” — there needs to be a marrying of families now in limbo with the American mainstream. We can’t have two Americas.
With any luck, Congress will join Trump in getting serious about immigration enforcement sometime later this year. It’s the only way we’re going to find a compassionate way to properly integrate those already among us. Until that happens, anger, confusion and division over the issue will continue to have free rein.
William F. B. O’Reilly is a consultant to Republicans.