One of President Trump’s campaign promises that drew cheers and jeers was his plan to build a wall along the US-Mexico border. To most people, it sounded absurd then. But the president is serious and now no one’s laughing. Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to achieve the construction of the US-Mexico border wall, from saying that Mexico will pay for it to threatening a government shutdown if the “obstructionist Democrats” refuse its funding.
Mexico’s president Enrique Nieto has repeatedly asserted that his country will never pay for the wall. Because of Trump’s insistence regarding payment, the Mexican president cancelled a meeting with him in January. Trump may have to wait until his term ends in 2018 and the next president is more sympathetic. But that will be a long shot.
So, presuming that funding for the border wall, now calculated to cost around $67 billion, will never pass Congress, and it is not built, what happens now? Here are a few speculations:
Trump may lose the support of some of his voters.
What could President Trump possibly do that may cause his followers to stop supporting him? This question was presented to readers of The Atlantic by one of its staff writers. One email stood out as possibly echoing the views of one segment of the US president’s base. The responder wrote that he and his family voted for Trump in part because of his anti-globalization policies. The wall and cutting down of illegal immigrants are part of those policies and not fulfilling them constitutes a betrayal of what he promised.
In July, Rasmussen Reports polled 1,000 US voters to find out if they were for or against building a border wall to help stop illegal immigration. Fifty-six percent did not want the wall as against 37 percent who supported it. The results show an increase of those opposed to the wall from 46 percent in a poll conducted in January.
Part of the reason for people voting against the wall may be the decrease in the number of illegal immigrants that are currently in the US. In 2007, Pew Research found that the country had 12.2 million of them. This figure fell to 11.3 million in 2009 and has further gone down to 11 million since 2015 up to now. Stricter border security, a better Mexico economy and the recession in 2009 that saw many of them going home contributed to the decline.
Unauthorized Mexican immigrants have also decreased in recent years, while a rise of illegal immigrants from Asian and Central American countries was noted. Considering that the wall is meant to keep out mostly Mexicans illegally entering the US, its enormous cost may not justify its purpose.
More border patrol and immigration officers will be hired.
In an executive order released in February, President Trump directed Homeland Security to hire an additional 10,000 immigration and customs officers and 5,000 patrol agents to secure the country’s southern border with Mexico. The extra agents will help in curbing illegal immigration and in repatriating the unauthorized aliens back to Mexico. They will complement the border wall that will rise up.
But a report from the Office of the Solicitor General states that the agencies where the new hires will be placed, the US Customs and Border Protection and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, do not have data to support a needed increase in their employee roster.
President Trump’s order will need $15 billion included in the budget, aside from budget for the infamous wall. But with the number of illegal immigrants down, many are questioning the need for more border patrol agents. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) has authored a bill that will appropriate funding for the $15 billion budget but it needs the nod of Congress first. However, if Trump never builds the wall, the hiring order may push through.
The chance of Trump winning in 2020 may increase
All surveys conducted by different nonpartisan polling organizations found that majority of Americans are opposed to the building of the wall. Pew Research Center, CBS News and Quinnipiac University polls, taken at different periods, had similar results of more than 60 percent opposing the wall and more than 30 percent in favor of it.
Not surprisingly, the survey taking partisanship into account produced a glaringly opposite outcome. Seventy four percent of Republicans (74%) are in favor of Trump’s wall and a paltry eight percent (8%) of Democrats agree with them. If the wall doesn’t rise during Trump’s first term, how will his supporters react? In his book “The Authoritarians,” psychology professor Bob Altemeyer describes the people who would vote for an authoritarian leader like President Trump as “authoritarian followers.” These people belong to the minority and are more common among the right-wingers. They are the type who will remain extremely loyal to their leader no matter what he does.
Adding to that, if Trump never builds the wall, the voters opposed to it may see Trump in another light and soften to him. The Democrat voters and the liberals are more inclined to be logical and open-minded. They are less likely to be fanatics and can change their votes based on what they perceive as the lesser evil. This was evidenced in the 2016 election, when Hillary lost supporters in the two weeks prior to the poll. Even if these authoritarian followers are a minority, adding the votes of the Republican-leaning independents and the moderate Democrats to them gives America another four years of President Trump.
President Trump has three more years of his first term as chief executive of the most powerful country. It will be interesting to follow his and the GOP’s moves ride roughshod over the Democrats in particular and the people’s sentiments in general.