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TJ Cox: We need real border security now, but the border wall is not it

In this file photo provided by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a silver Jeep Cherokee that suspected smugglers were attempting to drive over the U.S.-Mexico border fence is stuck at the top of a makeshift ramp early Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, near Yuma, Ariz. U.S. Border Patrol agents from the Yuma Station seized both the ramps and the vehicle, which stalled at the top of the ramp after it became high centered. The fence is approximately 14 feet high where the would-be smugglers attempted to illegally drive across the border. The two suspects fled into Mexico when the agents arrived at the scene. President Donald Trump is threatening to declare a national emergency to circumvent Congress if he can't reach a deal with Democrats to fund his promised border wall.
In this file photo provided by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a silver Jeep Cherokee that suspected smugglers were attempting to drive over the U.S.-Mexico border fence is stuck at the top of a makeshift ramp early Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, near Yuma, Ariz. U.S. Border Patrol agents from the Yuma Station seized both the ramps and the vehicle, which stalled at the top of the ramp after it became high centered. The fence is approximately 14 feet high where the would-be smugglers attempted to illegally drive across the border. The two suspects fled into Mexico when the agents arrived at the scene. President Donald Trump is threatening to declare a national emergency to circumvent Congress if he can't reach a deal with Democrats to fund his promised border wall. AP

Editor’s note: The Bee invited Fresno-area congressmen to share their views on President Trump’s push to get $5 billion to build a border wall. Democrats Jim Costa and TJ Cox took up the offer. Republican Devin Nunes did not respond.

Reasonable people on both sides of the political debate can disagree about the right way to stop the flow of illegal drugs into our country and regulate our immigration system. But the current crisis, manufactured by the president’s decision to shut down our government unless he gets a border wall, does nothing to address these concerns.

The fact is, national security experts, including the president’s own chief of staff, agree the border wall is an expensive and ineffective way to achieve our common goal of fewer illegal border crossings and stopping the flow of illegal drugs. As I’ve stated before, a wall is a 12th century solution to a 21st century problem.

Most undocumented people in the United States are here through visa overstays — something a border wall would do nothing to address. And despite the president’s claim that illicit drugs are flowing across the border, the overwhelming majority of these drugs arrive in legal ports of entry and through cars — again, something that a border wall would do nothing to combat. If we want to get serious about fixing these problems, then we need to have an honest conversation about the challenges we face.

tj cox
Rep T.J. Cox, D-Fresno. Fresno Bee file

The president and his advisers know this. They know that the wall is a colossal waste of taxpayers’ dollars (we all know that the American people, not Mexico, will pay for his wall.) And they know that debate going on in Washington has nothing to do with border security, and everything to do with the president’s insecurities about his re-election next year.

But we weren’t sent to Washington to get re-elected or score political points on TV. We were sent here to get results for the American people. I’m happy to sit down with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to work on securing our ports of entry, investing in 21st century camera and surveillance technologies, and to pay our border agents a competitive wage. These are real, concrete policies that will help secure our border and stop the flow of illegal drugs through our ports.

But I cannot support the president’s border wall, an expensive boondoggle that does nothing to solve these problems. Moreover, the president’s decision to shut down the government to get this wall is dangerous, unnecessary, and harmful to the people of the Central Valley.

Last week I spoke to workers at the federal prison in Mendota who are putting their lives on the line every day without pay. I heard from a corrections officer, a single mother of two and breast cancer survivor who is on medical leave — she’s struggling to provide for her family without her salary. Farmers have contacted me concerned about their businesses because the USDA closure means they can’t access loans and funding. One TSA agent I spoke to recently told me that “This shutdown is a waste of time — my time.”

Let’s be honest, if the president was truly concerned about border security, he wouldn’t be forcing thousands of border patrol agents, TSA agents, and other federal law enforcement personnel to show up to work, not knowing when they’ll see another paycheck. Instead, the president has plunged us back into another political crisis so he can score points with his base and conservative talk-show hosts.

Democrats and Republicans alike want safe and secure borders. Despite the partisan mudslinging on cable news and online, we know that on this issue far more unites us than divides us. In 2018, the American people elected a new generation of leaders despite the president’s efforts to weaponize immigration. Thankfully, the American people rejected his argument that immigrants are a force for evil in our lives, and they rejected his need for a border wall.

In the weeks and months ahead, I look forward to meeting with my constituents and my colleagues in Washington about the need for a comprehensive approach to securing our border. I know that both sides have contributions to make to this debate, but neither side is served by our president holding 800,000 federal workers’ paychecks hostage so that he can deliver on a campaign promise. The people of the Central Valley know better. And the American people deserve better.

Fresno Democrat TJ Cox represents the 21st Congressional District in the House of Representatives. The district covers all of Kings County and parts of Fresno, Tulare and Kern counties.

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