Congress, including Kentucky’s delegation, should make it clear to President Donald Trump that his plan for a wall along the Mexican border is going nowhere because it would be a huge waste of money, accomplish none of Trump’s avowed goals and do actual harm.
Yet U.S. Rep. Andy Barr voiced support for Trump’s nativist folly during a town hall in Lexington Monday, just as Trump was dropping his demand that Congress begin funding the wall’s construction this week as part of a spending bill that Congress must pass to keep the government running.
Barr did say that the wall is “not the complete answer to the problem of border immigration,” adding, “We need to deploy our National Guard to the border, we need a better visa program, we need a better legal immigration system.”
He’s right about the need for immigration reform, including a less cumbersome visa system. Agriculture, including Kentucky’s horse industry, has been begging Congress for more than a decade to update the visa system and provide a path toward legal residence and citizenship for some of this country’s hardest workers whose only crime was overstaying a visa or risking death to cross without papers.
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Unfortunately, Trump’s demonization of immigrants, his relentless fear-mongering stoke a political climate that makes immigration reform impossible.
By endorsing the ridiculous wall, Barr bolsters Trump’s enforcement-only message, even as Mexican immigration has reversed. From 2009 to 2014, more migrants returned to Mexico from the United States than entered the United States, fueling worries in agriculture of a workforce shortage.
American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said last month that “many of the undocumented workers we have on our farms are leaving because they are scared. ... As they leave, that has put a huge demand on this very unworkable system we know as H2A (the visa program for agricultural workers).”
Meanwhile, Thoroughbreds living on the backside of race tracks could lose their grooms, exercise riders and hot walkers as an exemption is set to expire that permits seasonal workers under H2B visas to keep returning to their employers.
The exemption, which is given almost no chance of making it into the continuing resolution, allows the program to exceed its cap of 66,000 workers.
Trump, who’s still vowing to build his wall, now claims it will keep out heroin, but that’s unrealistic. As journalist Sam Quinones explained in the New York Times, heroin is often transported in quantities too small for detection and won’t be stopped by a wall. Larger heroin shipments do move in trucks.
The places where vehicles enter this country from Mexico already have walls and tight security but there’s no way to inspect the millions of trucks crossing the border. The wall will damage relations between the two countries and collaboration on law enforcement.
Besides, history shows that a new supply of drugs always springs up to meet demand, making demand reduction, through treatment and prevention, the most viable option.
It’s telling that Trump’s wall lacks support from House and Senate members of both parties who represent the four states that border Mexico. They, better than anyone in Washington, understand the practical considerations and reality on the ground.
As Texas Republican Will Hurd, a former CIA agent whose district contains 800 miles of border, the most of any House district, said, “Building a wall is the most expensive and least effective way to secure the border.”