President Donald Trump made his plea during his 2019 State of the Union address, "Walls work and walls save lives, so let's work together, compromise, and reach a deal that will truly make America safe." Yes, there is ample evidence that walls can and do work around the world in curtailing illegal immigration. But when the president has at times claimed that most Americans want a wall, there is no evidence to support such a claim.
In fact, there is evidence that fewer people support an expanded border wall as a result of President Trump's handling of the issue. Emily Elkins' article, "Americans Used to Support a Border Wall. What Changed Their Minds?" appeared in The Federalist on January 14, 2019. It summarizes the poll results on the issue starting in 2007.
"Analyzing more than 150 polls conducted between 2007 and 2018 from the Roper Center iPoll Databank reveals that an average of 43 percent of Americans opposed building a border wall between 2007-2014. Opposition increased to 48 percent in 2015, 58 percent in 2016, and 61 percent in 2017, and then back to 59 percent in 2018."
A Gallup poll conducted in late January of this year confirmed that 60% of Americans oppose major wall construction. But that is not to say that Americans are not open to alternatives to deal with the illegal immigration problem. The Gallup summary states: "Though a majority of Americans reject major expansion of walls on the U.S.-Mexico border, three-fourths of the public favors another method of increasing border security -- the hiring of 'significantly more' border patrol agents."
Two things stand out in that statement. Americans don't support "major expansion" of the wall and do support hiring "significantly more" border patrol agents. The issue of a border wall and illegal immigration has been around for decades. It has now been so politicized that any meaningful compromise before the 2020 election seems a pipe dream at best. Neither side can give ground, or they risk pushback from their base in a critical election year.
Both parties are locked into their positions with no compromise in sight. But why should we look to Washington for the best way to deal with the border issue? Why not ask those who are forced to protect and manage our border: the border patrol agents themselves.
Border patrol agents know where the weak points are. They know where no wall would be needed. They have relationships with border agents around the world and know what systems work for various terrains.
Brandon Judd, president of the union that represents thousands of border patrol agents, has been a supporter of President Trump. He confirms the "humanitarian crisis" on our border. According to Judd, the Border Patrol Council conducted a voluntary survey last year of agents in Tucson, Ariz., and Laredo, Texas, and found that nearly 90 percent of them agreed that a "wall system in strategic locations is necessary to securing the border." Nearly 700 of the 5,350 border patrol agents in Tucson and Laredo responded to the survey.
It's certainly not the whole answer, but border patrol agents believe that a "wall system in strategic locations" would help. Instead of starting with politicians, maybe it is time we take the problem out of Washington and challenge a task force of border patrol agents to come up with a recommended plan to best address the illegal immigration, illicit drug trafficking, and MS-13 gang problem. Let them come with their recommendation for where to use a wall, security technology, or increased border agents and how to work best with the necessary Mexican authorities.
If you don't trust Brandon Judd because of his endorsement of President Trump, let border agents recommend and eventually choose the border agents they want involved in constructing the plan. Let them work independently with the goal of coming back to Washington with the plan. The only commitment needed from Washington politicians would be the agreement from both parties to work with the task force to shape and present the plan for an up-or-down vote without amendments in both houses of Congress.
It's time to listen to and learn from the people who deal with the problem every day. If their plan is not approved by the House and Senate and signed by the President, it would still provide valuable input to be considered for a future plan that just might pass when combined with a more comprehensive immigration plan.