The Problem with Border Security

Border security—supported by Republicans and Democrats alike—is responsible for the death of Jakelin Caal, the exoneration of the Border Patrol agent who murdered a Mexican teen, and the separation and death of thousands of immigrant families.

By Joseph Nevins

January 01, 2019 "Information Clearing House"    On December 11, President Donald Trump hosted an Oval Office sit-down with incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Charles “Chuck” Schumer (D-NY). Among the many noteworthy lines and exchanges which stick out is when Trump stated, “We need border security. And I think we all agree that we need border security.”

“Yes. We do. We do,” Schumer immediately responded.

“See? We all get along,” pronounced the president.

While Trump’s declaration that “we all get along” might come across as just another over-the-top statement from the current occupant of the White House, it speaks to an important truth that is indispensable for understanding the current federal government shutdown: Democrats and Republicans agree on the fundamentals regarding the policing of the U.S.-Mexico border. Their disagreement over Trump’s border wall proposal is thus not first and foremost one of conflicting principles. Instead, it is one born largely of what Freud referred to as the “narcissism of small differences”—relatively minute distinctions that, due to the need to maintain group identities (in this case of the Republican and Democratic parties), lead to hostilities.

One group agitates for overt, brutal means—a “big, beautiful wall” in Trump’s words, and highly visible expressions of force along the international divide. The other side calls for “smart” border policing policies and infrastructure, contending that such policies are more effective in stymieing unwanted border crossings than Trumpian wall-building. However, despite such objections, the Democrats have supported the construction of large barriers along the international divide on many occasions.

Indeed, just as telling as Schumer’s “we do” was Pelosi’s “we agree with that” in response to Trump’s insistence that “this country needs border security.” In other words, though CNBC characterizedthe meeting as a “heated Oval Office fight,” the ultimate goal was not in question. It was a debate about means, not ends. And this has long been the case.

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