Reach back into the deep recesses of ancient history—a few months ago, when the president shut down the government over omnibus spending because the Congress wouldn’t provide funding for the border wall.
At the time, the president’s opposition in Congress refused to budge because they claimed there was no crisis. Now, because nothing was done, the U.S. faces record-high numbers of illegal border crossers.
The numbers are so overwhelming that the Department of Homeland Security can’t detain or house them all. So the president has, once again, asked for emergency funds to help deal with the mess at the border.
Make no mistake, the president’s request is a test for Congress: Will it admit there is a crisis now?
The administration has asked for $4.5 billion. Trump made it easy for the opposition. He didn’t ask for a cent of wall funding. He asked for $3.3 billion for humanitarian assistance, which is needed to deal with the tsumani of asylum requests created by the loopholes that Congress refuses to close. He’s also asked for another $2.8 billion for additional bed space, and another $1 billion-plus for border operations.
So here’s what’s interesting. The curmudgeons in Congress face a dilemma: They can’t reject Trump’s request by claiming it will fund the wall, because it won’t. On the other hand, if they write the Oval Office an emergency check for the border, they are as much as admitting that there really is a crisis.
And, if they don’t vote the money at all because they don’t want to admit there is a crisis, they will only be exacerbating the humanitarian suffering at the border that they’ve been complaining out.
The president is taking every legal step imaginable to make it clear that if the border isn’t secure, it is not the administration’s fault. Just this week, the Oval Office issued an executive order to try to clamp down on the unfair and illegal exploitation of the asylum claims process—something Congress should have done years ago.
Trump is painting an ever-sharper contrast between himself and his opposition. He is for securing the border. They are not. The president’s critics can claim they don’t want open borders—but if they oppose providing resources to secure the border, oppose immigration enforcement, refuse to close the asylum loopholes, want to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and love sanctuary cities, how are they not for open borders?
If the president’s opponents don’t start taking reasonable action, it will become increasingly obvious that they are the problem.
Whether Congress delivers the dollars or not, the choice for Americans is getting ever clearer. They can continue living with this hot mess at the border, or they can start to demand real solutions that will actually solve the problem.
James Jay Carafano, a leading expert in national security and foreign policy challenges, is The Heritage Foundation’s vice president for foreign and defense policy studies, E. W. Richardson fellow, and director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies.
This article was published on The Daily Signal.