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Sat Jan 12, 2019, 10:19 PM

Before Trump Insisted on His Wall, Border Security Was an Issue That Could Be Discussed

WASHINGTON — Washington used to know how to have a serious debate about border security.

Republicans demanded more money for Border Patrol agents and necessary fences. Democrats argued for better surveillance technology and more resources at the ports of entry. The two parties squabbled over how much to spend, how to pay for it and how it all fit into the broader struggle to overhaul the nation’s broken immigration system.

But President Trump has demolished the decades-old, bipartisan understanding about how to bargain over the border. In Mr. Trump’s world, there are no alternatives that can form the basis of a legislative give-and-take, much as his allies and adversaries might hope for them. For the president, the only way to stop what he calls an “onslaught” of illegal immigrants is to erect a massive, concrete or steel barrier across the nearly 2,000-mile border with Mexico.

“Drones and all of the rest are wonderful and lots of fun, but it is only a good old fashioned Wall that works!” he tweeted last month.

By conjuring images of a towering stone edifice around a medieval fortress — and branding those on the outside as invaders threatening to bring crime, drugs and disease to the United States — Mr. Trump has transformed what used to be a complicated, nuanced negotiation into a take-it-or-leave-it demand, laced with xenophobia, that has shuttered nearly a quarter of the government for weeks.


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