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OPINION

Trump Border Wall Showdown

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

Congressional Democrats are butting heads with President Donald Trump over his demand for $5 billion to continue building a wall along the southern border. Rep. Nancy Pelosi vows not one dollar will go for a wall. She calls the idea of a wall "immoral."

Not building the wall is what's truly immoral. Allowing destitute, uneducated people with limited job prospects to flood across the southern border into the United States forces taxpayers here to toil longer and pay more in taxes to feed and house them, accommodate their children in public schools and pay for their medical care.

Americans are already maxed out caring for our own needy, including the homeless sprawled on city streets. This nation has 40 million in poverty, 1 out of every 8 people and 1 out of every 6 children. That's far higher than in Canada or Great Britain.

Our country doesn't need to import more poverty.

For the same reason, Trump is also proposing that only immigrants who can support themselves without government handouts be granted green cards and permanent status.

Mayor Bill de Blasio blasted Trump's proposal as "un-American." New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said, "This plan is ugly, it is cruel."

Really? Why should Americans be compelled to provide a safety net for throngs pressing to get into the country?

Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman warned two decades ago that America could have open borders or a generous welfare system -- but not both. Open borders benefit a growing economy by providing a source of labor. But that works only so long as immigrants are barred from government benefits.

Trump is tightening regulations under a longstanding law, on the books since 1882, which bars immigrants likely to need government benefits from getting permanent status. Starting with President Bill Clinton, the law has been applied so laxly that almost no one is denied a green card for that reason. A staggering 63 percent of households headed by a noncitizen depend on Medicaid, food stamps, housing assistance or in some cases all of these taxpayer-funded programs, according to a December 2018 analysis of census data by Center for Immigration Studies. That's almost double what it is for American-born households.

Right now, newly arrived legal immigrants who earn little or nothing are eligible for fully subsidized Obamacare plans, with taxpayers paying the entire bill, even for co-pays and deductibles. And 6.8 million children of immigrants are enrolled in Medicaid, according to the Urban Institute. Meanwhile, millions of American-born taxpayers who fund this giveaway to newcomers are going without insurance themselves, because they can't afford it.

That doesn't jive with the ideal that a democracy's first duty is to protect its own citizens.

Democratic politicians are adamant about open borders, rejecting Friedman's wise warning.

But don't expect the American public to buy into open borders and unending handouts. That policy already bombed in Europe. Hungary and Spain have put up tall barbed wire fencing to keep out migrants from Africa and the Middle East. The British are erecting a high, unclimbable concrete wall in the seacoast town of Calais, France, to prevent migrants from jumping aboard ferries and trucks heading into the Channel tunnel. European voters have decided border walls are not immoral. They're essential.

Europeans are also fed up with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's self-righteousness. In the summer of 2015, Merkel welcomed hundreds of thousands of migrants, and told the public to just deal. Now the public is in revolt, and shifting their politics to the right.

This week, the United Nations announced a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. The United States and at least 10 other major nations wisely refused to sign on. Expect more countries to do the same.

The international elites don't get it, but everyday people have the common sense to know you care for the poor in your own country first.

Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York State. Contact her at betsy@betsymccaughey.com. 

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