politics to go

In Congress: Border barriers, budgets and Israel


On Friday Dec. 21, parts of the United States government may run out of money and parts of the federal government will shut down, all because Senator Chuck Schumer and his followers object to something he used to support.

On the bright side, over seventy-five percent of the federal budget has already been passed, and anything labeled vital will get funded no matter what, which includes interest on the federal debt, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, food stamps and other safety net services.

The reason for the possible shutdown is $5 billion dollars, about one-tenth of one percent of the White House’s total ask of $4.094 trillion for this year’s federal budget. The money would be spent by Homeland Security to build another section of the promised southern border wall system (some areas will have a wall, others a fence or perhaps only electronic monitoring).

But as he has done with practically everything since Donald Trump was inaugurated, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is making his decisions based on politics. In recent weeks, he has insisted that he will not allow more than $1.3 billion for border protection, none of it for a barrier.

He told the press two weeks ago the money was “for border security, not a concrete wall or increases in detention beds or [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] agents.” He added that his party “would not agree to more border security funding.”

It’s strange that Schumer objects to the wall, yet in 2006 — before he was the Senate Majority Leader, before Donald Trump was president — Chuck Schumer voted in favor of the Secure Fence Act, a bill that originated with Long Island’s own Peter King (R-NY).

The primary goal of the Secure Fence Act was the same as the wall today: to help secure America’s borders to decrease illegal entry, drug trafficking, and security threats by building 700 miles of physical barrier along the Mexico-United States border. Rep. King’s bill required the building of a double-layered fence with barbed wire on top and room for a security vehicle to patrol between the layers.

Only about 36.3 miles of the fence was built, most of it during the administration of Bush #43. President Obama’s first DHS secretary, Janet Napolitano, “used her discretion” to downgrade what was outlined in the bill.

According to DHS, along with the 36.3 miles barrier fencing required by the Secure Fence Act, they’ve built 300 miles of a vehicle fence and 353 miles of pedestrian fence along the Southwest border. The vehicle fence is capable of blocking cars, but any able-bodied human child, or even an overweight bald political columnist, can walk right through them. The 18-foot pedestrian fence is easily scaled with a ladder. The Trump Administration’s wall system upgrades the requirement from a double fence to a 30-foot wall.

But Chuck Schumer says the wall is unnecessary and a waste of money because it won’t work. That is a bogus claim, especially if you look at Israel. The wall/fence system built along the eastern side of Judea and Samaria has almost eliminated suicide bombing attacks from the West Bank.

There’s also a wall along the border with Egypt. That barrier’s purpose is similar to Trump’s. Israel’s southern border barrier was erected to prevent illegal immigrants from Africa crossing into Israel.

Yehuda Ben Meir, head of the National Security and Public Opinion Project at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies, told the Jerusalem Post, “It was constructed in cooperation with Cairo and includes some military crossing points so that the Israeli and Egyptian armies can collaborate when needed.”

The Jerusalem Post also detailed the effectiveness of the southern barrier system:

“Today, there are approximately 40,000 African migrants and asylum seekers in Israel, according to the Interior Ministry. About 70 percent are Eritrean and 20% are Sudanese and almost all of them arrived between 2006 and 2012. In 2010, the height of the wave, about 1,500 illegally crossed from Sinai into Israel each month.

“After breaking ground in 2010, Israel completed the 242-km. (150-mile) fence in December 2013 at a cost of around $450 million. Whereas about 9,500 Africans crossed into Israel illegally in the first six months of 2012, less than three dozen did so in the first six months of 2013, at which time the major components of the barrier had been completed. Illegal immigration from Sinai dropped to 11 cases in 2016 and 0 in 2017.”

Any claim that a border barrier will not work belies the truth. U.S. border agents agree. In a survey conducted by the National Border Patrol Council, the agents’ union, they overwhelmingly supported adding a “wall system” in strategic locations, embracing Trump’s argument that it will boost their ability to nab or deter would-be illegal immigrants.

When one realizes that border barriers work in Israel, that the U.S. border patrol believes in their efficacy, and that Chuck Schumer supported the secure fence act when George W. Bush was president, it suggests that Schumer’s rationale for blocking the wall is more about partisan politics than anything else.

One of the reasons Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016 is that the American people want a wall. It’s time to end the obstruction.