Monday, August 20, 2018
Editorials

Take deal; build wall

President Donald Trump says he is optimistic a deal can be struck to shield "Dreamers," the young undocumented immigrants whose lives he put in jeopardy by stripping them of work permits and deportation protection, beginning March 5. His price, and that of many Republicans, is up to $33 billion in border security measures, including Trump’s "beautiful" wall.

If that’s the deal — not one freighted with a laundry list of other items on the GOP wish list — Democrats should take it.

Granted, Trump once told Americans that a border wall, paid for by Mexico, would cost $4 billion. After that, he said $6 billion or $7 billion, and later $10 billion. Now his administration says it’s really $18 billion for 722 miles of wall, of which just 316 miles would be a brand-new structure along the 2,000-mile southwest frontier. Oh, and Mexico’s credit card seems to be missing.

The wall is a dumb idea. It won’t do much to suppress illegal border crossings, which in any event have been falling for decades. And the additional border security spending proposed by the administration, including thousands of new Border Patrol agents, is largely a waste. Rather than seriously addressing the opioid epidemic, or mounting cyberwarfare threats, or America’s crumbling infrastructure, the president wants to fortify a border where illegal crossings, as measured by Border Patrol apprehensions, are already at their lowest point since the Nixon administration.

But consider how rare it is that a dumb idea in Congress actually buys something smart in return. In this case, the return on that dumb idea would be huge. (And betting that the courts will save the Dreamers is too risky, notwithstanding a federal judge’s ruling Tuesday freezing Dreamers’ protections — for now.)

The wall’s $18 billion price tag would be spread over a decade. If a few billion dollars annually is the trade-off that provides certainty — a pathway to citizenship or permanent legal status — for nearly 700,000 young immigrants brought to this country as children by their parents, it’s worth it. Because the alternative — all those lives ruined, all those jobs lost, all that education and promise cut short — is much worse.

Democrats who choke on the wall, loath to hand Trump a political triumph, might ask themselves what other deals they might strike that would do so much tangible good, for so many people, so immediately — and at such a relatively modest price. The likely answer is: very few.

Some Republicans are angling for more than half a loaf. Using the Dreamers as hostages, they want to decimate legal immigration, slash family reunification visas and dissolve the lottery system that provides visas for people from Africa and other regions that generate relatively few immigrants.

Those measures would inflict real harm on real people. By contrast, spending billions on border security, while profligate, has enjoyed bipartisan support in the past. In 2006, many prominent Democrats, including then-Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, voted for 700 miles of fencing at the Southwest frontier, albeit at a time when illegal crossings were more than three times greater than they are today.

Many in Congress may have lost the muscle memory required to strike a compromise, but here’s a reminder: In politics, as in life, compromise is often painful. That doesn’t mean you refuse it.

Comments
Editorial: Did Rick Scott’s wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Editorial: Did Rick Scott’s wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Within weeks of taking office in 2011, Gov. Rick Scott made one of the worst decisions of his administration and refused $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. Within months of leaving office, the governor...
Published: 08/17/18
Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Local governments across the land can find plenty of reasons to go after the drug industry over the crisis of opioid addiction.Hillsborough County can find more reasons than most.• In 2016, the county led the state with 579 babies born addicted to dr...
Published: 08/17/18
Editorial: Here’s what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

Editorial: Here’s what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

The environmental crisis in South Florida has fast become a political crisis. Politicians in both parties are busy blaming one another for the waves of toxic algae blooms spreading out from Lake Okeechobee and beyond, fouling both coasts and damaging...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

It is real news that the Hillsborough County School District said this week it will accelerate testing for lead in drinking water and release the results after the Tampa Bay Times reported testing would take years and that until we asked families wer...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/16/18

Bumping into GOP cowardice on guns

One small island of sanity in the generally insane ocean of American gun culture is the near-complete federal ban on civilian possession of fully automatic weapons — machine guns.The nation got a bitter taste last year of what we’d be facing on a reg...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

The revelation that three people in Pinellas County have contracted the measles virus should be a wake-up call to everyone to get vaccinated if they haven’t been — and to implore parents to immunize their kids. Contagious diseases such as measles can...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

A good reputation can vanish overnight, which is why Habitat for Humanity of Hills-borough County made a smart decision by announcing it would seek to buy back 12 mortgages it sold to a Tampa company with a history of flipping properties. The arrange...
Published: 08/14/18
Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

40%of Americans who were eligible to vote for president in 2016 just didn’t bother. That number dwarfs the portion of all eligible voters who cast a ballot for President Donald Trump — 27.6 percent — or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton, 28.8 percent...
Published: 08/13/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe made a reasonable decision to charge Michael Drejka with manslaughter in last month’s deadly Clearwater convenience store parking lot confrontation. The shooting, which erupted over use of a handicap parkin...
Published: 08/13/18
Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

It’s time to re-establish a permanent home for the state appeals court that serves the Tampa Bay region.It makes sense to put it in Tampa, the same as it made sense 30 years ago when the court’s operations began moving piece by piece up Interstate 4 ...
Published: 08/09/18
Updated: 08/10/18