Trump’s Wall Is The Lesser Evil Compared To Danger Of Extended Government Shutdown

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PHOTO BY JOHN HAYDEN

Shutting down the United States government, even a “partial” shutdown, is an irresponsible action with dangerous consequences.

It’s worth repeating:

Shutting down government, closing and disabling government, is hugely irresponsible and downright dangerous. It brings America to the edge of chaos. It puts us within sight of anarchy. As the shutdown continues, uncertainty and disorder spread through American society and economy.

Disorder spreads slowly at first. At some point disorder can quicken and run out of control.

Free government cannot be taken for granted.

It is easy to destroy government, if that is what a tyrant wants to do. It is difficult to restore a broken government.

We all need to understand the implications as the government shutdown extends from days to weeks. Do we understand what it means when a country stops paying its workers?

Do we understand what it means when a president threatens to extend a shutdown indefinitely? When a president threatens to seize power by declaring an emergency? It is not a normal thing. I don’t believe any American president has ever issued such a threat before.

Americans need to recognize that we are risking a transition from democracy to tyranny. We are flirting with chaos, anarchy, autocracy.

What to do?

Both sides are responsible. Either side could choose to end the shutdown. At this point, it doesn’t matter who takes the blame. But it might matter who gets the credit for ending the crisis. We can sort that out later.

Trump’s border wall in and of itself is not important. It’s almost entirely symbolic on both sides.

Suffice it to say that the physical structure of a wall can do little harm. It might even do some good, preventing a handful of unauthorized immigrants and a few drug smugglers from crossing the border. Certainly, there is no crisis at the border. The Border Patrol is capable of doing its job.

Let us stipulate that the wall is not strictly necessary. The main harm is that it will cost a lot of money that could be better spent elsewhere. But the cost will not break the bank.

The Wall Is By Far The Lesser Evil.

Clearly, the wall is now a small evil, but the danger to America of prolonging the government shutdown is a great evil.

Responsible and wise is the leader or politician who steps forward, takes this dangerous shutdown by the horns, throws it to the ground and drives a sword through its heart.

Certainly, President Trump could be that responsible and wise leader. Unlikely.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer could be courageous and wise leaders. I think Pelosi and Schumer are more likely to recognize the danger of continuing the shutdown. They are more likely be reasonable, while Trump is more likely to be egoistic. 

Would you rather go into the history books as a courageous and reasonable leader? Or as an egoistic maniac? Trump, Pelosi, Schumer, make your choices.

I beg any politician who has it within their power to do the right thing and end this dangerous crisis. If it means appropriating money to build a wall, so be it. It is a small price to pay.

The courageous and wise leader who ends the deadlock may be seen as losing; they probably will be reviled by their friends. Such is often the lot of great leaders. That’s why “Profiles In Courage” is a short book.

There may be consequences for the 2020 election. We have time to sort that out.

— John Hayden

18 thoughts on “Trump’s Wall Is The Lesser Evil Compared To Danger Of Extended Government Shutdown

  1. The House passed a bill to end the shutdown. Now its up to the Republican led Senate to do the same with enough votes the President can’t veto it. Lets see if they have the courage.

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    • Hi Bonnie. Yes, that’s a small step in the right direction. But unless the House is willing to add the $5.8 billion for the wall, the Republican Senate is not ready to pass it. At least not yet. It requires a 2/3 majority of both houses to override a presidential veto. I know the Republican Senate could not get anywhere near 2/3, and I seriously doubt that the House could either. Democrats have only a slight majority in the House and would need a lot of Republicans to reach 2/3. But with you and me and a lot of other folks hoping and praying, somehow the politicians will come to their senses.

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    • From what I’m hearing on the news, the problem isn’t just the borders. It’s also our ports where drugs etc come in. It’s also those who come in legally and then just stay when their visa etc is up. Democrats aren’t against border control just how it’s handled and funded.

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      • Thank you Kathy, good points. Regarding drugs, most are probably hidden as contraband among large shipments of legitimate merchandise coming into the country by truck or by ship, and sometimes by airplane. That seems to be a more efficient way for drug cartels to transport their merchandise, compared to having some guy carry it on his back over miles and miles of desert, with a high probability that he’ll be captured at the border.

        Regarding immigrants, yes it appears that a lot simply overstay their visas. I guess we could have better monitoring of the visa system if we wanted to, but that wouldn’t have anything to do with a wall.

        Many terrorists seem to be homegrown, people who immigrated legally long ago, or the children of such people. A wall wouldn’t stop them, because they came in legally. Some of these people, because of their religion or for other reasons, become radicalized and commit terrorist acts.

        And of course terrorists who have been trained abroad seem to come in on airlines, somehow having acquired documentation that allows them entry. Again no wall, only airports.

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  2. I couln’t agree more .
    You’ve gotta pick your battles !
    As JFK said regarding the Berlin Wall …
    “It’s not a very nice solution , but a wall is a hell of a lot better than a war”.
    In this case , a wall is a hell of a lot better than the slippery slope of a prolonged government shutdown .

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    • Thanks Tom. That’s a great quote from JFK. Probably applicable in a lot of cases. Almost anything is better than a war. ✌️ And slippery slope is an excellent way to look at the government shutdown. Right now we’re at the top of the slope, but near the edge. I hope that we never find ourselves at the bottom of the slippery slope, looking back up and wishing we had done something different.

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  3. Late to the party.

    I have an opposite take and it has to do with precedent. This is in fact horrible, and your point is well taken that the wall — which might never get built anyway even if it were greenlighted now — would probably do less damage than the shutdown is promising to do.

    But what does it say if we establish that any time this childish President doesn’t get his way, he can refuse to sign vital legislation? What will he want in return for the next continuing resolution? What will the President after him want? Let’s just pray that America never elects such a selfish, narcissistic asshole again, but bets?

    I don’t want people to suffer. Hell, I live just outside DC. This is going to whack every local community. But I also don’t want us going down the road a concession would open. It amounts to negotiating with terrorists, which is what some of our elected leaders have become. There is no reason the damn Senate can’t vote and override veto power.

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    • Agreed, government shutdowns over funding cannot become a routine way of settling disputes. All presidents can refuse to sign legislation. It’s the presidential veto, established in the Constitution, and it is used frequently by many if not all presidents. I agree with you that using the presidential veto to shut down the government is a wrong use of that power, probably not foreseen by the founders.

      Well, there is a reason the damn Senate can’t override a veto. Actually, two reasons. First and most obviously, A lot of Americans elected Republican senators who side with the republican president. Elections have consequences, and this Republican Senate is a consequence.

      But a second observation about the Senate: It is not representative of the American population, because many states with small populations elect two senators, and states with large populations also elect two senators. So the many small states wield more power in the Senate than the few large states.

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  4. First off, both sides of the aisle after playing to their base. One might even say that both sides are frightened of their base – because we have entered territory where the primaries (and most elections) are driven by activists…. Who are becoming more and more radicalized.

    Second, the border issue is an existentialist struggle all over the First World. There are 60 million refugees in the world today and according to one survey, there are 700 million people who want to immigrate to another country, 21% of who want to come here. That is 147 million potential immigrants to the United States. Think of that in terms of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security liabilities.

    Europe is struggling with the same crisis we are and it is tearing them apart. Even Australia was thrown into crisis over immigrants arriving by boat from Indonesia.

    Put bluntly, modern welfare states cannot economically absorb all of those who want to immigrate and anything short of that is a cruel lottery.

    Beyond that is another fundamental problem. Forces within the Republican party favor unregulated immigration because it undercuts the price of labor. This has always been the case going back to the founding of America. This is why labor unions and the Democratic Party once fought for things like walls and strict immigration policies.

    But now the Democrats favor open borders and doing everything possible to enable it. Their perspective is that demography is destiny and destiny favors them.

    This goes all the way back to the Reagan years when the Democrats struck a deal to trade a path to citizenship for millions of illegals in exchange for border security and mandatory eVerify to prevent illegals from displacing native workers. They got their side of the bargain then reneged on security and mandatory eVerify.

    This same drama has repeated itself in Britain, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, France, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Italy, Greece and Australia. It is also mirrored in immigration patterns to Mexico from Central America and throughout Africa and the Middle East.

    The result is a surge of populist movements.

    Trump didn’t start this wave, he is riding it.

    My disgust is with the media who portrays this wave as racist and xenophobic. Granted there are racist and xenophobic elements in it – but there are also those who are out to suppress the price of labor and disenfranchise the political power of millions because it works to their political advantage.

    The media is mum about them.

    Years ago, my wife and I visited New Zealand and fell in love with the place. So much so that we looked into moving there. Both of us had very marketable skills and could find work with days.

    But New Zealand would not take us. We were both in our 40’s, this we were too old. New Zealand have socialized medicine and the actuarial tables determined that it doesn’t pay to allow people over 40 into the country.

    That is a system that looks out for its citizens.

    We need that here.

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    • Thank you for the thoughtful comment. You raise many important aspects of the political conflict. Perhaps most basic, the worldwide situation creating pressure for mass migrations. People who are knowledgeable about demographics and population have warned for a long time about the imbalance between the poorer and highly populated southern hemisphere, and the richer and usually not so densely populated northern hemisphere. The warning has been that waves of people from the south will seek to come north in search of a better life. The predictions are coming true, the migrations are happening, and the pressures likely will intensify. In some cases, governments in the southern hemisphere appear to be intentionally encouraging their people to move north.

      And so, we have intense political confusion and disagreement in Europe and the U.S. about how to respond. I doubt that the political masses in Europe or the U.S. understand the significance and complexity of the immigration pressures. Probably most of our leaders have only a slippery grasp on the issues.

      Exploitation of cheap labor has been a focus in America from the very beginning — Indentured workers from England and slaves from Africa. We fought a Civil War over the issue, and even during that Civil War, we were building the transcontinental railroad using cheap Chinese labor on the western side of the project, and cheap Irish labor on the eastern side! After the Civil War, waves of immigration from Europe to populate the vast western part of the country, and to run the factories of the industrial revolution.

      Cheap labor remains a largely hidden part of the immigration issue in the U.S., but the need for cheap labor has changed, and that contributes to the confusion in our response. Europe definitely still needs cheap labor. But they have realized that relying on immigration from the Muslim world is problematic, to put it mildly.

      Cheap labor is an important part of the immigration crisis, but not the central issue. I think FEAR of being overrun by immigrants is key in both Europe and the U.S. And because this fear is real, I doubt that a majority of grassroots Democrats actually favor “open borders.” But I agree with you that Democratic leaders at the moment seem to be obsessed by the symbolic xenophobia and racial concerns, which I think are more imaginary than real.

      I agree with you that New Zealand and Australia appear to have a handle on the immigration issue, from a standpoint of protecting their own citizens. I honestly don’t know what the answer is, from humanitarian standpoint, for the poor and overpopulated southern hemisphere. I think both Europe and the U.S. (and Canada) are trying to identify legitimate refugees needing help. But how to separate refugees from the masses of poor who desperately want to immigrate? How do you define “Refugee?”

      Finally, returning to your original point about both sides playing to their bases. I agree completely. The original post that started this chain of comments is now more than a week old. Trump and Pelosi are both now firmly entrenched in their own holes. They seem determined to keep digging deeper.

      The real danger is that they may both soon be in so deep that they can’t get out. Seriously, I think our government and possibly our Constitution are in danger.

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  5. I should qualify my characterization that the Democrats favor “Open borders”. While that was mostly hyperbole on my part, there is some truth to it. Our own, Keith Ellison, former Deputy Chair of the Democratic Party sported an Open Borders t-shirt in the local annual May Day parade this spring. It is a theme that the far left of the party likes to push and from experience, what was once thought far left, soon becomes central to the party.

    Much of this is driven by the perception within the party that immigration has changed its political fortunes. We see this in California where once reliable conservative districts have been shifted left by the weight of immigration. We see this locally also.

    It would be neither here nor there if it was a natural consequence of regulated immigration patterns, but it is fairly clear that polices such as sanctuary cities, granting of state id’s and social benefits to illegal immigrants are designed to encourage, not discourage illegal immigration.

    Having spent thirty years in law enforcement (not as a cop), I can speak directly to the sanctuary city issue. Minneapolis became a defacto sanctuary city years ago for very rational reasons. Illegal immigrants were the victims and witnesses of crime, yet were hesitant to speak to police because of their status. So we adopted a wildly successful don’t ask, don’t tell policy.

    But now, we see things like violent felons being released from custody without informing ICE. It boggles the mind and fully suggests the intent of “Open borders.”

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    • Regarding the “perception” that immigration strengthens the Democratic voting base: The perception definitely exists, and I think it reflects what has happened historically up until the present. Hispanic immigrants, except for many Cuban refugees, have tended to become Democratic voters. How present and future immigration will play out in domestic politics is unpredictable. First of all, no matter how numerous they may be, immigrants only affect election results after they become citizens and eligible to vote. And even after becoming citizens, it usually takes a generation or more before immigrants adopt the habit of voting regularly.

      This is why the issue of “a path to citizenship” is such a hot potato. It could have political impact in the short term. All of the ”Dreamers,” young people brought into the U.S. by their parents, could potentially achieve citizenship within a relatively few years, and probably many would become Democratic voters. The number of dreamers seems large, but it is insignificant in the context of the total U.S. population. And scattered throughout the US, their political impact would be minimal. But in addition to dreamers, there are millions of undocumented adult immigrants in America. If all of them were to attain citizenship, and eventually get in the habit of voting, it would enlarge the size of the Hispanic vote. I doubt that most of these adult undocumented immigrants will ever obtain citizenship. However, their children born in the US are citizens, and that may be significant.

      Going forward, political implications of immigration are unclear. It’s a very complex situation. The economic elites in America continue to favor immigration because they see it as essential to U.S. competitiveness in the global economy. They are in a gold-rush sort of frenzy for speedy high-tech innovation to create wealth. So they are intent on attracting highly educated immigrants, especially those with the technical knowledge and skills to enrich the U.S. economy. At the top of the list are immigrants with money to invest and entrepreneurial ambitions. Those with enough money to invest can literally buy a green card.

      The likely Immigration status of educated and skilled workers without wealth is not clear to me. I think most of them will be admitted with short- or long-term work visas, and some certainly will eventually get green cards. The vast majority of these educated and skilled immigrants will come from Asia, especially India and Korea, and also from Europe. Some will come from the Ukraine, Russia, Africa, and South America.

      Now, the long-term status of this new class of immigrants depends on their own desires and success in the U.S. I have heard that many, especially those from India, hope to make their fortune in the US and return to their homelands. So the situation is most unpredictable. The political inclinations of those who eventually become citizens is also unpredictable. Will these educated, skilled, and affluent people from Asia tend to be Republicans or Democrats? Or members of some political party as yet unimagined?

      The above three paragraphs put into context why the present US struggle over immigration policy is so intense. Much is at stake. I think that Republican and Democratic elites will eventually agree on a regulatory policy to encourage immigration of highly educated and skilled workers. Unskilled labor, such as migrant agricultural workers, will still be needed and encouraged, but strictly controlled.

      I hope that Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi are sophisticated enough to understand the likely future course of immigration. I think the “perception” contributes to her intrangience in two ways. First, I think the border wall controversy may have inflamed the Democratic grass roots to the extent that she feels limited. Second, I think there is real benefit to the Democratic Party in solidifying and motivating the present base of Hispanic voters. Hispanic turn out could be decisive in certain states and local areas in the 2020 elections.

      With your law enforcement background, you have a far better understanding of the sanctuary cities situation and implications than I do. However, I think local mayors are mostly hoping to encourage migration of immigrants already in the U.S. Business and industry loves hard-working people who will work for low wages. Cities that have lost population probably rightly believe that they can improve their local economy by attracting workers.

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  6. Thank you for a very reasonable and rational discussion of a subject that is all too often difficult to talk about.

    But I will leave you with this and perhaps get a smile.

    When Minnesota was debating about the topic of non-citizen voting, my response was: how can you tell? The way we typically identify individuals is by Given, Middle and Surname along with date of birth.

    This is a very Western thing.

    In the Minnesota Drivers License database, which also contains non-driver ID numbers, that combination of full name and and DOB provides an absolutely unique identifier. We have no duplicates……

    …until we get to people from Africa and Southeast Asia. Most Somalians, South Sudanese and Laotians do not know their birth day, much less year. So we guess and assign them 01/01 (while taking a stab at the year).

    In Somalia, the name Mohammad is very popular among males – and most rural residents have no surname, only the name of a hamlet which may no longer exist. So the names get very “biblical”. Example I am Mohammad, son of Mohammad from (place).

    By the way there are twenty six ways to spell Mohammad in English – but only one in Arabic and the transliteration of the name depends on a prior translation to English or for much of the Middle East, like Syria, to French.

    In short, we have several thousand Mohammad, Mohammad’s who were born on New Year’s day.

    And we have not even gotten to Asia.

    Minnesota has over 300,000 immigrants from Africa and Southeast Asia.

    🙂

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    • Names and dates of birth are certainly inadequate to identify people or prove citizenship. I worked for four years as a drivers license agent at the Maryland motor vehicle administration. We were extremely strict about identifying applicants for drivers licenses and ID cards. And I believe the drivers license laws are almost completely standardized throughout the United States and the Canadian provinces. At some point in their life, a person must present persuasive proof of identity, the most fundamental proofs being a birth certificate or a valid passport. Additional back up documents, such as Social Security cards and proofs of address, are also required. If a person has a verifiable certificate of birth from a US state, or for a Birth abroad to a parent who is a U.S. citizen and member of the US armed services or diplomatic corps stationed abroad, that person has proof of American citizenship.

      I don’t believe that identification requirements for voter registration are nearly as tight as they are for obtaining a US passport or a US drivers license. And to be honest, I don’t think most states verify citizenship of every registered voter. It is pretty easy for a government clerk trained in examining documents such as birth certificates and naturalization papers to verify citizenship, regardless of name and DOB information.

      Voter registration should be tightened up to require verification of citizenship. Once citizenship has been verified, a US drivers license or ID card is valid identification of the person’s identity.

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      • The problem with immigration from the undeveloped world is that there frequently are no records whatsoever. In places like Somalia, South Sudan, Laos and the hills of Northern Burma, vital statistic are not kept, nor is there a tradition of formally, or informally tracking birth dates or even ages.

        These things are difficult enough – but an even larger set of countries do not have criminal history systems, much less reliable criminal history systems.

        Even simple precautions, like having the State Department mail documents to the “reported address” as a method of verification, are not a matter of routine protocol.

        Some law enforcement officials maintain that places like Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are “dumping” their criminal element northward. Though there is only anecdotal evidence of this, the historical precedent is rather strong with the Mariel boatlift. That was such a problem that even in Minneapolis, our police reporting forms had a checkbox for “Mariel”

        It’s a mess.

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  7. Responding to “The problem with immigration from the undeveloped world . . . “ I think we are allowing ourselves to be distracted from what is important if we fret about identification and voting. They are fringe concerns. Controversy about the border wall has created debate about a number of subjects and issues which are interrelated, but are actually separate subjects.

    1) The physical structure, the Wall, in whatever form, is only a physical structure with no real meaning by itself.

    2) U.S. immigration POLICY, such as how many immigrants to admit, from what countries, as refugees, or as tourists, as temporary workers or students or long-term workers, or even as permanent resident aliens — that is the immediate political struggle. At the extremes, we could decide to have open borders and let everyone in; or we could decide to seal our borders and allow entry to no one, not even a single tourist or student. Presumably we will choose something more moderate. Policy is the real focus of debate, and we could make policy without reference to a wall.

    3) Enforcement and implementation of our policies is separate from the making of policies, but just as important. Policies are made by politicians; implementation is carried out by employees and bureaucrats. Enforcement and implementation is predicated on a political willingness to allocate the necessary resources. How much to spend on resources is a political decision. The PRIMARY RESOURCES are border patrol agents, customs agents at the legal crossing points for commerce, and bureaucrats to process immigrants and related paperwork, including judges. (An important side note: Apparently our political leaders have fallen short in their willingness to hire and pay sufficient patrol agents, customs agents, and bureaucrats.)

    4) The primary resources — agents and bureaucrats — can be helped and supplemented by various technologies, such as the weapons carried by agents, electronic surveillance, communications, drones, electrified fences, dogs, and WALLS of whatever kind. Technologies by themselves will not implement policies. Technologies alone are only as effective as the managers who deploy them and the workers who use them.

    5) A major point of confusion: Many people confuse policy with implementation and enforcement. And they confuse the primary resources of implementation with supplementary technologies. A WALL is not immigration policy, nor is it implementation and enforcement of policy.

    A wall is one possible technology among many that can be deployed to help agents and bureaucrats be more effective. A wall is probably the most primitive of the technologies available. It would require a lot of support from border patrol agents and more sophisticated technologies, such as electronic surveillance. Without such support, a wall would be useless. People wishing to cross the border would simply go over it, under it, or break through it.

    6) Secret or hidden sabotage of stated policies! Powerful economic and political forces want CHEAP LABOR. Stated immigration policies may go unenforced. The will to pay for enforcement may be lacking. Enforcement resources may be intentionally mismanaged and hindered from accomplishing their mission. (maybe this has happened in the past, and maybe it has not.)

    7) Proper identification of immigrants is not a significant issue. Hardly any immigrants from the most remote and backward parts of the world will ever make it to the US borders. Records are kept by almost all other countries. Use of birth certificates, identification documents, and passports is routine and nearly universal throughout Central and South America, to the best of my knowledge. U.S. border agents and bureaucrats can turn away or detain any unidentified adult pending further investigation.

    Most significantly, whatever deficiencies in identification may exist, It is the job of the border bureaucrats to fully process, photograph, create records and identification papers for every immigrant who enters. Once an immigrant has been processed in, identification is not a problem.

    WE HAVE IT WITHIN OUR POWER TO SECURE OUR BORDERS, IF WE CHOOSE TO, AND IF WE ARE WILLING TO SPEND THE NECESSARY MONEY. THAT IS THE POLICY STRUGGLE.

    Adequate records must be kept, and identification papers provided, for those immigrants we choose to admit. Obviously, the Trump administration failed in this most basic recordkeeping responsibility when it separated children from their parents at the border.

    8) Citizenship and voting rights are the very last issue, and totally SEPARATE from all the foregoing immigration issues. No immigrant or refugee, even though legally admitted, is automatically eligible for citizenship and voting. Any immigrant who slips through illegally is obviously not eligible for citizenship or voting. Unless Congress and the president decide differently in the future, and that would be a POLICY decision.

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  8. I agree with your statement, “Powerful economic and political forces want CHEAP LABOR. Stated immigration policies may go unenforced. The will to pay for enforcement may be lacking. Enforcement resources may be intentionally mismanaged and hindered from accomplishing their mission.”

    At present, there is an invasion at the southern border and more coming northward. Many are, to put it mildly, not good people. President Trump understands the problems at the ports, too and mentioned this in his Twitter announcement.

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  9. Thanks Jo Elle. Yes. I wrote at some length about worldwide migration pressures on Jan. 20, about seven or eight comments above.

    “”People who are knowledgeable about demographics and population have warned for a long time about the imbalance between the poorer and highly populated southern hemisphere, and the richer and usually not so densely populated northern hemisphere. The warning has been that waves of people from the south will seek to come north in search of a better life. The predictions are coming true, the migrations are happening, and the pressures likely will intensify. In some cases, governments in the southern hemisphere appear to be intentionally encouraging their people to move north.””

    And much more. The problem in Europe is probably more near crisis than in the U.S.

    I think the word “invasion” is a bit strong for the present situation at our border, but it could become an invasion at some point in the future. I believe the U.S. is fully capable of sealing the southern border and implementing whatever immigration policy is eventually agreed upon. I’m not sure if we have the WILL to do it. I’m not sure if the economic elites are willing to control the flow of cheap labor, and I’m not sure if U.S. taxpayers are willing to pay the price.

    It’s ironic that at present, our government is NOT PAYING BORDER PATROL AGENTS and customs agents! I’m just cynical enough to wonder if a hidden goal of the shutdown is to reduce the number of government employees (don’t pay them, and pretty soon they will quit to drive full-time for Uber). If Border Patrol Agents begin to stop coming to work because they can’t buy gas for their cars, or worse, if they start finding other jobs, will that improve border security??

    But long story short, I was skeptical about Trump’s desire for the wall at first. But the more I consider the pressures for immigration from the south (which will continue and get worse), the more I think Trump may be doing both the U.S. and Europe an important favor by forcing us to think about immigration. I really feel sorry for Europe.

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