Politico’s Bill Scher summarizes the basics of the debate over Trump’s wall succinctly in a piece at RealClearPolitics:
Those who are eager for both sides to compromise, like center-right New York Times columnist David Brooks, describe “a wall for DACA” as an “obvious deal” that only doesn’t happen because of “a massive leadership vacuum in Washington.” But it’s not because of a lack of leadership. It’s because the two camps have opposite views on immigration itself.
The Democratic opposition to a complete wall or barrier, running the entire length of the southern border, is not strictly because it would be “ineffective,” but because of the desired effect: to send a stark message that immigrants from Mexico and Central America are not welcome here (unlike immigrants from Canada, where a border wall has not been proposed). Democrats do not want to send that message.
And they don’t need to. The “Dreamers” who get work permits through the DACA program are not facing imminent deportation, thanks to court rulings that have indefinitely shelved Trump’s attempt to scrap the program. Democrats, in turn, feel no urgency to make concessions to codify DACA. They can still play for time.
A wealth of polling indicates that most Americans view immigration positively. In a September NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 61 percent of respondents said immigration “helps the United States more than it hurts.” And Trump didn’t help the Republicans keep the House by campaigning on “the caravan” in the run-up to the midterms. So you can see why Trump may not want to advertise what he’s doing to clamp down on legal immigration, and have “the wall” then be viewed as part of that restrictionist strategy.
However, while Trump’s hard-line immigration rhetoric didn’t help Republicans, the Democrats who flipped red districts didn’t spend much time talking about immigration at all. They felt voters wanted to hear more about issues that directly impact their pocketbook, like health care. Today, Democrats may feel politically safe opposing the wall, but not every Democrat may want to fully engage Trump on the larger question of how welcoming our immigration policies should be. Therefore, Democratic leaders tend to emphasize a less polarizing, more pragmatic message about effective border security.
But if we are to ever achieve comprehensive immigration reform, at some point we will need a real debate about what kind of immigration system we want: Do we want to make it easy to come to America, or do we want to make it hard?
I have made no secret of my views. Immigration to the United States should be hard. We should emulate the policies of the countries we most closely resemble, e.g. Canada and Australia, impose substantial requirements on prospective immigrants, and enforce them.
It isn’t the 1880s. Wages for unskilled workers have been declining for decades. Wages for tech workers, those admitted under H1-B visas, have been flat for at least a decade. The instances of native-born workers being forced to train their immigrant replacements are too numerous simply to be dismissed. Whatever purpose immigration served in the past today it serves primarily to keep wages low and afford American companies the luxury of not automating.
Higher education is no solution to the employment problem in the U. S., at this point largely a problem of underemployment, for the simple reason that it is not applicable to between half and two-thirds of the U. S. population who do not thrive in colleges and universities.
A tighter immigration system would allow wages to rise in the U. S. and change the areas that U. S. businesses engage in towards what we can do effectively rather than trying to compete with the low wages that prevail in Asian countries. In my opinion if you favor making immigration to the U. S. easy, you have a moral obligation to do something about the workers that will be displaced or whose wages will be kept low that extends beyond rhetoric.