One of the great triumphs of the Trump administration quietly takes place during the Biden administration.
“I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively,” Donald Trump proclaimed when he first announced for president in 2015. “I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall.”
Mexico did not do that. But last year came news that Mexico would pay $1.5 billion toward border security. And now an equally unlikely source further transformed that oft-ridiculed Trump statement on the border wall into prophecy.
Joe Biden, quietly, builds the wall. Except, he does not call it a wall. The administration euphemistically refers to it as a “barrier,” which, of course, makes it neither racist nor xenophobic but sound public policy. As “undocumented worker” replacing “illegal alien” signaled, progressives really, really care about how something sounds and looks.
Alejandro Mayorkas filed a document on Wednesday published on Thursday that cites existing law as justification for building “barriers” alongside the border. “Congress provided that the Secretary of Homeland Security shall take such actions as may be necessary to install additional physical barriers and roads (including the removal of obstacles to detection of illegal entrants) in the vicinity of the United States border to deter illegal crossings in areas of ‘high illegal entry’ into the United States,” the homeland security secretary writes. He added that “Congress granted to the Secretary of Homeland Security the authority to waive all legal requirements that I, in my sole discretion, determine necessary to ensure the expeditious construction of barriers and roads.”
Mayorkas then plainly announces his intention, presumably after hearing the throngs’ cries at Trump rallies, to build that wall.
“I must use my authority … to install additional physical barriers and roads in the Rio Grande Valley Sector,” he explains. So important does he regard this Trumpian task that he waives 26 federal laws — including the National Environmental Policy Act, National Fish and Wildlife Act, and Migratory Bird Conservation Act — to construct the wall, er, barrier. Rather than stopping migrants seeking refuge, critics, perhaps tacitly admitting that they lost on that issue, focus on the wall preventing critters from crossing. ABC News quotes Laiken Jordahl of the Center for Biological Diversity lamenting “an impermeable barrier straight through the heart of that habitat” that “will stop wildlife migrations dead in their tracks.”
One of the sad patterns of American political history sees conservatives vigorously fight against socialized retirement or socialized medical care in one generation only to pledge to protect these innovations in the next. One sees this template flipped on the border wall.
“There will not be another foot of wall constructed on my administration, number one,” Joe Biden promised in 2020. Critics of this latest move should remember that it was, after all, a campaign promise.
Three years later, he sees the wisdom of perhaps the central tenet animating his rival’s political career. The Biden administration erecting walls on the border represents this president tapping out on the issue to the last president. He never, of course, verbally admits his error. But his actions quite loudly do that.
The country, profoundly altered through the porous borders of the last six decades or so, would have been better off if more heeded Trump’s counsel to build a wall eight years ago — and even better off still if more heeded Pat Buchanan’s call to do the same more than three decades ago. Instead, liberals called names. Now those same people construct a border “barrier.”
One need not exploit Democrats finally doing the right thing by beating them up further for doing the wrong thing for so long. A gentleman does not gloat when his adversary submits. Perhaps the welcome development calls for appreciation rather than scorn. And if one needs to internally gloat, then the irony of the situation suffices for satisfying that guilty pleasure.
Donald Trump did not get Mexico to build that wall. He got Joe Biden to do it.