Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (c) signs into law the bipartisan budget deal that was reached on Thursday to avoid another government shutdown at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 14. EFE
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (c) signs into law the bipartisan budget deal that was reached on Thursday to avoid another government shutdown at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 14. EFE

Border deal falls short -- by design


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SAN DIEGO -- What if Republicans played "Let's Make a Deal" on border security, and all they walked away with was a lousy consolation prize?

Maybe a set of steak knives.

That's essentially what happened this week when congressional negotiators announced a compromise that would stave off another government shutdown while also funding increased security on the U.S.-Mexico border -- and avoiding a pointless argument over a border wall.

The deal pledges $1.375 billion for border enhancements like steel-slatted barriers and other "existing technologies" and $1.7 billion for additional security measures and humanitarian aid. The proposed new barriers would account for just 55 miles, which is a far cry from the more than 200 miles the White House sought. And the new fencing is likely to be limited to the portion of the border that cradles Texas.

The East Coast media -- which should be banned from ever discussing immigration because they know so little about it -- was quick to tell the story sunny side up and label the deal a bipartisan compromise.

That's an insult to the concepts of "compromise" and "bipartisanship."

Here is what you need to understand: This was a mugging, pure and simple. The GOP got its pockets picked by the Democrats, who proved once again that they are so much better and more skilled at the game of politics than their counterparts across the aisle.

This isn't news. In 2007, Democrats killed immigration reform and then made it look like Republicans were holding the gun. In 2010, five Senate Democrats voted against cloture and killed the Dream Act, which would have given legal status to undocumented young people and then made it look like Republicans had deep-sixed the measure.

And now, in 2019, after Democrats repeatedly said that they would support more money for border security in the form of new fencing, additional agents and enhanced technology -- as long as not one dollar went to build a wall out of concrete, plexiglass or steel -- that is what this deal from Senate and House negotiators comes down to.

And that's why this is a triple win for Democrats. They got everything they wanted (no second shutdown). They only gave up something they were willing to give up anyway (additional border funding). And, in the process, they didn't have to go along with something they oppose (a wall).

On top of that, the border deal would match the funding level for 2018, which means that all the hullabaloo about the shutdown and the "build the wall" rallies didn't move the needle one bit. And as an additional insult, the barriers that would be enhanced under the plan were put there by the Obama administration -- which conservatives like to say pushed for open borders.

It's no wonder that President Trump -- who knows a bad deal when he sees one, unless he's the one inking it -- was not pleased with the offer.

"It's not going to do the trick," Trump told reporters Tuesday.

Trump's comrades on conservative talk radio agreed, refusing to describe a crumb as a steak dinner. With visions still dancing in their heads of a 2,000-mile and 20 foot-high concrete border wall (with moat optional), they put Trump on notice. He needs to turn down the deal, they said. Or he might as well head back to Trump Tower because his presidency is over.

Yet, Trump is stuck between a wall and losing face. He can threaten all he wants to sidestep Congress and go it alone with an emergency order.

But who is he kidding? That's never going to happen. And for the same reason that Democrats killed immigration reform and the Dream Act. Trump doesn't want to be the sole owner and operator of a border wall that may wind up being a giant eyesore that goes overbudget and, in the end, doesn't even work because people still keep coming.

And come they will until Trump and members of Congress grow the spines to do what they don't want to do but what also happens to be the only thing that will curb illegal immigration: punish employers. Notice how this little item somehow got left out of the border deal.

Tired of illegal immigrants? Gee, that's a little ungrateful given all the chores they've already done for you. Nevertheless, here's how you get rid of them: Dry up the jobs that lure them here.

Anything else is just political theater, a foolish distraction and a colossal waste of time.

You know, like the Trump presidency itself.

Ruben Navarrette's email address is [email protected]

(c) 2019, The Washington Post Writers Group

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