Views expressed in opinion columns are the author's own.
President Trump delivered his first State of the Union Address before Congress on Tuesday. The president shied away from his usual combative and childish manner of speaking, leading to much immediate praise, with 75 percent of American viewers approving of the speech, according to a CBS News poll. Some have interpreted his speech as a message of unity, describing Trump as presidential.
This is a ridiculous oversimplification. Speaking in the calm and unifying manner that presidents usually do should not be a major point of praise for Trump after a year in office. It should be an expectation and a norm. One decent speech should not overshadow a year of investigations, policy failures and outlandish behavior.
Many have applauded Trump's speech for reaching across the aisle on the key issue of immigration. But the president's compromise is ludicrous. His offer to Democrats is to allow Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children, to remain in the country and have a path to citizenship. His price is $25 billion to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, ending the visa-lottery program that allows people to immigrate to the U.S. from countries that have recently sent few people here and limiting family-based immigration to spouses and minor children.
The only thing the president is offering Democrats is protection for Dreamers. This is no small matter: As many as 1.8 million Dreamers, including University of Maryland students, would no longer have to fear deportation and could eventually become citizens. But it is also widely popular; 86 percent of Americans believe that Dreamers should be allowed to stay in the U.S. Many lawmakers in both parties are in favor of such a solution. Conversely, building the wall is an unpopular waste of money.
Not only is support for the wall only 37 percent, it is not a real policy solution to illegal immigration. From 2007 to 2014, more undocumented immigrants arrived in the U.S. legally, many by plane, and subsequently overstayed their visas than illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. Since planes can easily fly over walls of any size, a border wall will do nothing to stop the most common means of illegal immigration. Thus, to fund such a wall is to fund a symbolic and racist project that would do little other than make Trump's base happy.
That $25 billion could be well spent on any number of other projects Democrats and Republicans could fight over: increasing assistance to wounded veterans, paying off student debts or funding infrastructure repairs. The key to all these projects is that there is some reason to believe they could solve a problem and help some segment of the American public. The border wall would do neither; therefore, it should not be considered as a part of any compromise.
Although the Democrats are in the minority, another government shutdown is likely to occur on Feb. 8. This gives them some leverage to make demands for legislation that supports Dreamers without funding the border wall. Any solution will of course be a compromise, and it will likely leave both sides feeling like they've achieved a half victory. With that in mind, though, one concession that cannot be made is funding the wall.
Mitchell Rock is a senior government and politics and physiology and neurobiology major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.