The president repudiated his chief of staff, saying on Twitter, "The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it."
It's true that the president's thinking on immigration has changed many times. He once favored a "deportation force" and a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering
But Trump has said many times that the wall needn't be one contiguous barrier spanning the entire border. On the general idea, he's been implacable. And that's a problem.
There's a reason Senate Minority Leader
The problem with the wall is not necessarily that it's a bad idea. It's that it has become a symbol detached from policy considerations. An old friend of mine once had a painting company in college. Their unofficial motto was, "We may be slow, but we're expensive." That could be the motto of the wall, too.
Meanwhile, there are faster and more effective ways to deal with the problem of illegal immigration and the drugs "pouring" into our country, which mostly come through legal ports anyway.
Most serious immigration restrictionists favor enhanced border security and want some more physical barriers, but ultimately their support for the Trump wall is a political priority, not a policy one. They'd much rather see the president trade a Dreamer fix for cheaper and more effective solutions to the problem of illegal immigration, as well as reform of the legal immigration system. Top of the list: mandatory E-Verify, a program by which employers can check on the immigration status of job-seekers.
That's because the biggest driver of illegal immigration isn't on the supply side; it's on the demand side. Immigrants, legal and illegal, come to America primarily to work. They stay because their employers, many of them
The wall, in theory, would stop illegal border crossings from
"Though there are parts of the border where better barriers are needed, universal E-Verify would probably do more to cut illegal immigration,"
Unlike the wall, Krikorian notes, "E-Verify wouldn't cost much, if anything, since the IT infrastructure is already in place to handle all new hires."
If Trump wanted a clear -- and immediate -- win on illegal immigration, he'd evolve and recognize that the wall's greatest utility might be as a bargaining chip.