The wall of Donald Trump’s campaign and presidency has always operated both as a discrete proposal — an actual structure to be built under his leadership — and as a symbol with a clear meaning. Whether praised by its supporters or condemned by its opponents, the wall is a stand-in for the larger promise of broad racial (and religious) exclusion and domination.
It’s no surprise, then, that some Americans use “Build the wall” as a racist chant, much like the way they invoke the president’s name. And it’s also why, despite the pain and distress of the extended government shutdown, Democrats are right to resist any deal with the White House that includes funding for its construction.
That’s not to say there aren’t practical reasons for Democrats to resist the proposals on hand. The president calls his most recent bid a major compromise, but its headline provision — protections for immigrants covered by either Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or Temporary Protected Status — are short-term and limited. It also puts a cap on the number of Central American migrant children and teenagers who can receive asylum, requiring them to apply in their home countries, while also eliminating automatic court hearings for minors who arrive at the border in order to streamline the deportation process. Together with its $5.7 billion for “the wall,” it’s less a compromise than a near capitulation to the president’s vision for immigration policy — a vision he could not get through Congress when he had Republican majorities in both chambers. A border wall also just won’t work — erecting a barrier does nothing to solve the political conflicts and economic pressures that drive migration to the United States. [Continue reading…]