In light of the growing divide between Americans over border walls, racial profiling and curtailing even legal immigration, one can only marvel at transcripts of President Trump’s frantic telephone call with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto — a conversation in which Trump whined, pleaded with and begged Peña Nieto not to tell the press that Mexico wouldn’t pay for any border wall, no matter how often and how loudly Trump promised just that while campaigning for president. So much for the idea the president of the United States can treat the president of Mexico like a subservient peón.
Meanwhile, credit U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, for showing spine in telling the president that more than one way exists to ensure border security, at least in Texas. Possibly drawing on his years in South Texas, Cornyn is doing what a lot more lawmakers in the Texas congressional delegation should be doing but aren’t: reminding everyone that Texas is geologically, ecologically and culturally diverse in ways unimaginable to those who don’t know our state well. And that means physical walls might be appropriate in some locations, high-tech virtual walls involving surveillance equipment and boots on the ground might be more appropriate in others.
And in certain areas, such as the rugged Big Bend region of West Texas, no walls are necessary. Placing one would be an irresponsible waste of taxpayer money. Not only are the region’s mountains, canyons and wildlife likely to deter those seeking to cross into Texas via that route, the presence of federal and state officials already there, plus tourists, add further natural impediments. And Sen. Cornyn is right to discourage the stupid idea of building a physical wall through 2,088-acre Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge which, to quote the McAllen Monitor, “will cut through property and, for the most part, destroy the refuge.” With that as a prime example, Cornyn says it’s “imperative” federal officials confer with local leaders to discuss what appropriate solutions might look like. One size does not fit all — not in Texas.
Cornyn is correct that President Trump deserves some deference on the issue of immigration, given that it appears to be one strong reason he won election. That said, the president and congressional leaders must seek bipartisan solutions to avoid the train wreck we witnessed over health-care reform. Immigration is especially fraught with racial tensions that can turn ugly fast. For instance, before Congress withholds federal funding from cities that supposedly offer “sanctuary” to illegal immigrants, lawmakers need to better define what qualifies as a “sanctuary city.” And with the Trump administration pushing a plan to cut legal immigration into the United States by half, now is the time for our own congressman, Bill Flores, to make very reasonable demands to streamline and expedite the process by which people become U.S. citizens. He has stressed this often enough to constituents in Waco. Meanwhile, a question of simple logic in cutting legal immigration by half: Doesn’t this just naturally increase the impulse to immigrate illegally?