Mackowiak: Border wall in urban areas makes sense
It is staggering to see how the Democratic Party has flip-flopped on border security over the years.
As Annie Liskey of The Boston Globe reported: "As a senator, Barack Obama once offered measured praise for the border control legislation that would become the basis for one of Donald Trump's first acts as president. 'The bill before us will certainly do some good,' Obama said on the Senate floor in October 2006. He praised the legislation, saying it would provide 'better fences and better security along our borders' and would 'help stem some of the tide of illegal immigration in this country.'"
Obama was talking about the Secure Fence Act of 2006, legislation authorizing a barrier along the southern border passed into law with the support of 26 Democratic senators, including party leaders like Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer.
Now it's become the legal mechanism for Trump to order construction of a wall between the United States and Mexico, attempting to make good on a key promise from the campaign trail. Trump specifically cited the law in the first sentence of his executive order authorizing the wall.
Today, almost no Democrat in Congress supports any additional border security construction.
Yes, the Secure Fence Act, which called for the construction of 700 miles of "double-layer" fencing along the southern border, overwhelmingly passed the U.S. House by a vote of 283-138 and the U.S. Senate by a vote of 80-19.
President Barack Obama, in 2011 in El Paso, claimed that the border fence is now "basically complete."
But PolitiFact found that claim to be "Mostly False." DHS reports that there is now fencing for 649 of the 652 miles described in the Secure Fence Act of 2006. But the vast majority of the requirement was met with vehicle barriers and single-layer pedestrian fence. The original act specifically called for double-layer fencing, and only 36.3 miles of double-layered fencing currently exist. However, the act was later amended to allow Border Security the discretion to determine which type of fencing was appropriate for different areas.
Under the Secure Fence Act, President Donald Trump has already begun the process of building a wall along the southern border by seeking bids, notifying landowners and asking Congress for money.
The reasons for increasing border security are justifiable: Prevent the flow of immigrants, narcotics and human trafficking into our country.
Now, please do not misunderstand me: I do not support a 10-foot wall throughout the 1,900 miles of our southern border with Mexico. I do not think it would be advisable to put a wall at the top of the Davis Mountains. I do not think it would be feasible to put a wall in the middle of a river.
In these very rural areas of the border, a layered approach of personnel, drones and cameras will be both adequate and cost-efficient.
Ultimately, the Trump administration should work with landowners on the border, local law enforcement, Border Patrol and security experts to determine which sectors require more robust fencing.
There may be no single promise of the Trump candidacy more directly associated with his presidency than his promise to build a wall with Mexico.
Ultimately, I highly doubt Mexico will pay for it, whether that be directly or indirectly. If anything, Trump's deep unpopularity in Mexico is most likely to help elect a left-wing president in their national elections in 2018.
That said, border security is a real issue. I worked at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from 2003-04 when the department was being created.
Illegal border crossings are a fact of life in South Texas — and for many landowners, they are a serious threat to their lives.
Cross-border commerce is also vital to our state; we must be cautious and thoughtful about how we improve our border security.
But the border wall is going to be a reality. It's a promise that Donald Trump made — and he is within his executive authority to begin that work.
Matt Mackowiak is host of the "Mack on Politics" podcast, an Austin-based Republican consultant and a former Capitol Hill and Bush administration aide.