From The Archives -- A Face-Saving Border Wall Compromise Everyone Could Live With

[ Posted Wednesday, December 19th, 2018 – 18:13 UTC ]

Program Notes:

Today, I am working feverishly on the first of our year-end awards columns, so didn't have time to write a new one. This will likely happen tomorrow, as well. As for next week, I really can't promise a whole lot of new columns then, either. Monday, I may feel the urge to write a new Christmas column (how about: "Santa caravan stopped at border" for a theme?), but can't absolutely promise I'll do so. Tuesday everyone's off, obviously. But then we will enter into the second frenzy of putting together a year-end awards column, so Wednesday and Thursday are in doubt as well. Look to see Christmas column re-runs from previous years. Friday, of course, will be the second of our awards columns. New Year's week is also kind of sketchy in my mind right now. There will be our traditional "banned words" column right after the new year, but Monday is also in doubt for new columns. At some point, regular original columns will begin appearing again like clockwork, but I really can't commit to a solid schedule as to how we get from here to there, sorry.

One final end-of-year note: I'm sad to say that our fundraising pledge drive seems to have seriously stalled. We rocketed up to beyond 75 percent of our goal very quickly, but since then the numbers have not budged. So we're reminding everyone of all those sad-eyed kittens once again, in the hopes of meeting our goal before the new year. We've got bills to pay here at, and we really don't want to contemplate a return to having to run ads here, so please give what you can towards that goal!

OK, with that out of the way, the following column ran almost a year ago, in January, as Congress was ramping up to shut down the government over the issue of immigration and Trump's beloved border wall. Not much has changed, other than the page on the calendar. Trump now seems like he's willing to back down from his hasty "proud to shut the government down" boast last week, but the situation largely remains the same. Which is why the following column is still a valid bit of political theater the Democrats should seriously consider using. Especially since Trump is now tweeting about it (and lying about what his U.S.M.C.A trade deal actually does, of course).


Originally published January 9, 2018

President Trump sat down today with the Democratic and Republican congressional leadership, in an attempt to hash out a compromise on immigration (specifically, the DACA program that Trump suspended). The larger budget negotiations may hinge on getting such a deal, but at this point the two sides are pretty far apart. Where Trump stands on the issue is pretty clear, which is to say he just wants to sign something and doesn't really care what's in it. This was evidenced by him appearing to agree with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer about the need for a "clean DACA" bill in the negotiations, only to be yanked back by the Republicans in the room who want a whole lot more than a clean DACA bill. But it's obvious Trump just wants a bill to sign, no matter what it contains.

The Republicans have decided that Democrats want a DACA fix (to protect the "Dreamers" from deportation) so badly that it offers them a golden opportunity to radically restructure the entire immigration system. They want an end to family-based immigration (which they call "chain migration"), and an end to the lottery system for green cards. Democrats, obviously, are not going to agree to any of that.

Democrats, however, are divided over just how hard to push on the clean DACA bill. Some want to take it to the brink, and threaten a government shutdown if they don't get what they want. The Democratic leadership seems more cautious, fearful that such a move could backfire politically.

The obvious area for compromise is on border security. Now, this means different things to different people, and the most contentious item is Donald Trump's "build a wall" campaign promise -- which Democrats have sworn not to fund in any way, shape, or form. Democrats, however, seem willing to allow Republicans to throw lots of money at the Border Patrol for all sorts of other border security measures, including drones and electronic scanning devices, as well as beefing up the Border Patrol even more than has already been done.

But it seems to me that there's a beautiful solution to the problem that could allow everyone to save face, while still not crossing any real red lines on either side. Such a plan, ideally, would be personally pitched to Donald Trump by the Democrats. If they can get Trump on board, then he can force Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to go along with it, one assumes. But since it's designed to tempt Trump alone, this might actually work.

Democrats should announce that they are offering a compromise to Republicans. The DACA fix (essentially, the original DREAM Act) would pass with some additional money for non-wall border security. There would be no sweeping changes to immigration policy (such as ending family immigration or the visa lottery), but Democrats would allow Trump a path to building his wall.

The key would be the money. Democrats could propose the creation of a special account at the U.S. Treasury for border wall funds. No American taxpayer money would be allowed to be deposited into this account, though. Instead, it would be an escrow account that could only accept money from Mexico, specifically earmarked to pay for the wall. This would allow Trump to completely fulfill his campaign promise, as it was originally made. It would be the perfect answer to all of those: "Who's going to pay for it? MEXICO!" campaign rally moments.

Democrats could claim they had given Trump all the budgetary flexibility he needs to build his wall, as he originally promised to do. Trade negotiations are about to get rather intense in the next few weeks, and reportedly this will be a large part of Trump's upcoming State Of The Union speech, so it could fit right in with that. If Trump can convince Mexico to pay for a border wall, then Democrats will not stand in the way of its construction. Democrats would even facilitate it by creating the special account for all the Mexican money to flow into, so the wall could be properly funded and built. Language within the bill would make it explicit that the only money from Mexico that could legally go into this account would be money from an explicit bilateral U.S.-Mexican deal to pay for the border wall (in other words, it'd have to be on paper that Mexico had agreed to such a scheme). But, of course, Democrats would also be holding Trump to his own promise -- that no American taxpayer money would be used at all for Trump's wall.

Democrats could rightly claim that they had offered Trump exactly what he told all his followers he was going to do. In offering such a deal to Trump, they would be challenging him to make good on his original promise. If Trump is truly the dealmaker he thinks he is, then this shouldn't be all that hard to accomplish, right? If Democrats could get Trump enthusiastically behind such a plan, it could break the logjam over the budget negotiations and both sides would have saved a considerable amount of face.

Democrats, of course, would know that the possibility of Mexico agreeing to fund the wall was precisely nada, meaning the wall would never actually get built. But they could also claim that they were not standing in the way of such a wall being built -- far from it -- instead, that they had created the mechanism and framework for its creation on precisely the terms Trump promised so many times. Trump could claim he had strongarmed the Democrats into agreeing to his wall, so he'd be equally happy. It's pretty easy to see how each side would spin it. If Pelosi, Schumer, and Trump were all on the same page, they could force Ryan and McConnell to bring such a bill to the floor for a vote.

Of course, as with all legislation these days, it'd have to have a catchy name. I propose that the new Treasury account be legally named the "Southern Border Wall Escrow (National Offset)" account, or "SBWE(NO) account." This would, of course, be pronounced: "Es Bueno." Because it's all good, right?

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


10 Comments on “From The Archives -- A Face-Saving Border Wall Compromise Everyone Could Live With”

  1. [1] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    clearly the solution to immigration is to build a pie. why haven't you written yet about pie as a political strategy? could it be that you're scared your support of big cake will be exposed?


  2. [2] 
    neilm wrote:

    Given that the White House is already claiming that Mexico are paying for the wall, then this solution is even more apt today.

    We could call it the "Trump Wall Foundation". Who could be concerned about that ;)

  3. [3] 
    Paula wrote:

    Shutdown was almost averted but now appears likely again.

    Meanwhile, this is good: Stop Losing: A Senator’s Battle Plan for Beating the Right

    By Sheldon Whitehouse / Dec.19.18

  4. [4] 
    Paula wrote:

    Mattis out in February.

  5. [5] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    'One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships. While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies.'

    Sad that a semi-decent man has to rely on obfuscation in his resignation.

    "sic semper tyrannis"


  6. [6] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    ...and what's more;

    Does trump not see the cowardice of 'ducking out of your own gig' a troop reduction in Afghanistan would represent? Does this dilettante imagine Canada, for instance, will ride another service/man-woman down the Highway of Heroes for an abandoned cause?

    Fuck no.

    We went to the aid of our brothers in their time of need, they were attacked on 9/11, we went. To disgrace our efforts by hanging in a fight long after or brother has gone is idiocy...


  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Why don't Democrats just say yes to Trump's wall funding but make it contingent on a bipartisan commission reaching consensus on the merits of the wall and other border security funding and measures?

  8. [8] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    that would make far too much sense and have far too little reality television drama.


  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Well, I'm pretty sure no Dem rep or sen has even thought of such an approach, anyway. :(

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Watch your language, James.

    Not sure what you mean by linking obfuscation with Mattis's letter ...

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