Democrats used to ask for new barriers to the border – and then some were built

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In the current political debate on the construction of a wall on the Mexican border, President Trump and his allies have what they consider an ace up their sleeve: at a certain point, eminent democrats who currently oppose the financing of the wall have supported the same thing.

In his speech at Oval Office on Tuesday, Trump called Senate minority leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) In particular.

"Senator Chuck Schumer, whom you will hear later this evening," Trump said, "has repeatedly supported a physical barrier in the past, along with many other Democrats, and they have changed their minds only after they have been elected president."

In another tweet, Trump cited his predecessor (as he writes his name badly) and the woman he defeated in the 2016 presidential election.

All this is true. All these quotes are accurate. There is only one outlet: those requests for further barriers to the Mexican border preceded the passage of the Secure Fence Act of 2006, signed in October by George W. Bush and supported in the Senate by Schumer, Obama and Clinton .

The result of that law was precisely what Trump now defends: many more miles of pedestrian barriers and vehicles on the border. The Center for Investigative Reporting & # 39; s Reveal has mapped the existing wall, indicating what kind of barrier it is and when it has been built with respect to the passage of the Secure Fence Act.


(Philip Bump / The Washington Post)

All this red was added after the law was enacted. In other words, when Schumer, Obama and Clinton sustained further obstacles, the only barriers to the border were those indicated in black.

It is true that many of the additional barriers were intended to prevent entry of vehicles, not people. As of September 2017, 300 of the 705 miles of barriers on the Mexican border have been designed to prevent the "incredible vehicles" used by smugglers from crossing the United States. Since then Trump has asked that these barriers be replaced with his much higher wall.

So this is the context for the previous arguments of the Democrats that Trump opposes. But there are other considerations that probably would not incline the Democrats to support a new wall, even if those new barriers had not been erected.

First of all, now there are far fewer apprehensions at the border of fifteen or twenty years ago. (Apprehensions calculate the number of arrests made by border patrol agents between established border controls). A part of this is probably attributable to the new fencing, but largely derives from the economic slowdown that accompanied the recession. Since the recession, these figures have not been recovered.


(Philip Bump / The Washington Post)

As we have noted before, most of those who have joined the ranks of undocumented in the United States in recent years have exceeded the visas that brought them into the country legally and have not crossed the border illicitly.

In other words, there is less immediate demand for a wall than 13 years ago.

Furthermore, the opinions of the Democrats have changed. Democrats and Republicans were equally able to say that immigration was a "good thing," according to the Gallup poll, during the period in which the Secure Fence Act was approved. About two-thirds of the members of each side held that position.

Since then there has been a divergence: Republicans are almost as likely to say that immigration is a good thing as they were then, while democratic support for immigration has increased dramatically.

So, in short, yes, democratic leaders used to support barriers to the border. Since they have done it more vocally, new barriers have been built, illegal border crossings have diminished and the democratic base has become more welcoming for immigration in general.

All of these are reasons why the Democrats are now refusing to indulge in Trump's effort to deliver on the promise of his electoral campaign.

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