Leading up to the State of the Union address, the president indicated that he might use emergency authority to access funds to build the wall. That did not happen on Tuesday night.
President Trump: Now, Republicans and Democrats must join forces again to confront an urgent national crisis. Congress has 10 days left to pass a bill that will fund our government, protect our homeland, and secure our very dangerous southern border.
Now is the time for Congress to show the world that America is committed to ending illegal immigration and putting the ruthless coyotes, cartels, drug dealers, and human traffickers out of business.
Simone Gao: Talking about border security, the president didn’t declare a national emergency on the southern border during his State of the Union address as some people expected. What do you make of it? What do you think his plan is for the wall going forward?
Tom Del Beccaro: Well, I think the reason why he didn’t talk about a national emergency during the speech is that he does want time to play out and see if the country is—both the House Republicans and House Democrats can come to some sort of compromise on the issue of border security in the remaining days we have under the current bill that kept the government open. I still expect them to reach some sort of compromise. There’s no appetite among Republicans for another shutdown. Nancy Pelosi recently said there wouldn’t be another shutdown. So rather than injecting that into this speech which, by the way, would have become the topic of discussion afterwards, everything else would have been forgotten if he had declared that national emergency. He had a higher goal for this speech, so he left it out. Give them a chance to compromise. And he made the case as to why there is actually a crisis at the border. There is, between drugs, human trafficking, sex crimes, violence, the treatment of women who make their way up from Central America. All those are crisis proportions. So he made that case, but he still gave time for compromise. And I think that was the wise thing to do.
Simone Gao: So do you think the president will really build the wall? And how is he going to go about it?
Tom Del Beccaro: Well, I think this issue has been a part of American politics for decades and decades. It was a big deal during the Reagan administration. It’s been a big deal ever since. Part of the wall is being constructed now. He just wants to extend not only that portion but the portion that already exists. He made the case on what a difference it’s made in San Diego, and I guarantee you walls work. So what he’s doing is continuing discussion. Will he get all that he wants? No. No president ever does. But this will be a continuing discussion, and I bet if you and I were sitting here again ten years from now some portion of this discussion would still exist. So I expect him to keep pushing for it. It will happen in fits and starts. It will be a campaign issue in 2020, and then the discussion will be renewed in 2021.
Simone Gao: Interesting. Sometimes when I think about the wall, I compare it to the U.S. overhaul of its China policy. You know the China engagement policy that has largely been promoted by big American corporations lasted for several decades before average Americans and also the big corporations, with intellectual property theft and forced technology transfer, really felt the pain. And once that happened, and also because of Trump, America quickly snapped out of it. I wonder if the border problem will also be like that? When the average Americans really feel the pain, everything will change.
Tom Del Beccaro: Generally there’s three aspects to the current immigration debate. There is the national security concern, those coming over the border are potential terrorists; there’s the violence and drugs along the border; and then there’s the issue of jobs. Historically if the economy is not growing, immigration becomes a big deal because those here already are in competition with those coming for jobs. This isn’t just true for America. This has been true through all of time. And so while the economy is growing, and it is doing quite well in America right now, the issue of jobs is downplayed. So they won’t feel that in the same degree as they will when the economy wasn’t growing under President Obama. I think the issue of whether the Americans will come to support more border walls will come down to whether Republicans make the case on the extent of the violence and the potential terrorism. And in order to do that, they have to do what you’re doing right now, which is take a video of something actually happening. They have to go down to the border, and they have to show actual video of the violence, the danger, the crossings so that it’s not disputable. Right now when Nancy Pelosi says walls are immoral, those are just words. But if you put a picture to it and the immorality of the violence that’s occurring to people or the fact that terrorists do come across, things of that nature, only then will I think the dynamic really change and Americans get behind a more robust border security policy.