The Supreme Court decision Friday to allow the use of $2.5 billion in Defense Department funds to construct hundreds of miles of wall along the U.S.-Mexico border will do far more harm than good. It will make the humanitarian crisis on the border worst instead of better and do nothing to address the border security challenges we face.

The decision to build the border wall to replace fencing in Arizona, California and New Mexico is a political victory for President Trump and he was quick to tweet about it.

The president said on Twitter: "Wow! Big VICTORY on the Wall. The United States Supreme Court overturns lower court injunction, allows Southern Border Wall to proceed. Big WIN for Border Security and the Rule of Law!"


But in reality, in addition to failing to improve national security, the high court’s 5-4 ruling accomplishes nothing to deal with the unacceptably harsh conditions that migrants – including children – are being subjected to in federal detention facilities.

First, let’s look at security concerns.

In February, after the longest federal government shutdown in history and a $1.4 billion allocation from Congress for wall funding in high border traffic regions of Texas, the Trump administration moved to transfer the $2.5 billion from the Defense Department for additional wall funding.

Friday’s ruling came about because the Sierra Club and Southern Borders Community Coalition sued to stop the administration from redirecting the funds. The high court decision allows construction to proceed while the litigation continues in the lower courts.

In the Trump administration’s appeal to the Supreme Court to take up the case, Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco wrote that the plaintiffs’ “interests in hiking, bird watching and fishing in designated drug-smuggling corridors do not outweigh the harm to the public from halting the government’s efforts to construct barriers to stanch the flow of illegal narcotics across the southern border.”

Look, I am worried about nature as much as the next person. But, frankly, I am much more worried about drugs crossing our border.

The Trump administration has decided a wall will solve all our problems. But it is ignoring its own data when it comes to stopping the illegal trafficking of drugs.

USA Today’s Alan Gomez wrote earlier this year that “an analysis of data from the southern border indicates that the vast majority of narcotics enters through U.S. ports of entry, not the wide swaths of border in between where additional barriers could be erected.”

That being the case, we should be asking if the administration is serious about border security solutions that stop drug trafficking.

Understanding the data leads to smart policy decisions. Clearly, if the administration was worried about the illegal trafficking of drugs across the border, we would be spending billions of dollars on security at our ports of entry.

Beyond security concerns, spending billions on a wall does not address the hundreds of thousands of Central Americans along the U.S.-Mexico border who are legally turning themselves over to Border Patrol agents to request asylum in the United States.

Apprehensions, which include those individuals applying for asylum, are already over 905,000 this fiscal year – exceeding the numbers in the first two years of the Trump administration.

Taking resources from the military to make good on a campaign slogan does nothing to keep us safe.

Over 980,000 cases languish in the immigration courts and, every day there are more stories of detention facilities struggling to provide reasonable standards of care.

Meanwhile, according to The Associated Press, back in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala there are no signs the situation is improving.

In El Salvador, there are nearly 83 homicides per 100,000 people in a country of over 6.4 million people. In Guatemala, almost 60 percent of people live below the poverty line. And, in Honduras almost 65 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

We need to keep in mind that the humanitarian crisis we are witnessing stretches from Central America to our border. But we aren’t investing resources at the immigration courts to ensure cases are adjudicated. We aren’t making sure immigrants are treated humanely while in detention.

And by cutting critical foreign aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, we are undermining civil society organizations that are making headway against violence, lawbreaking and corruption in Central America.

If we were serious about stemming the flow of migrants from Central America, we should be investing in these countries, not cutting millions of dollars in aid, as President Trump has done.

Furthermore, unless the goal of the Trump administration is to treat children and families in inhumane ways, the United States of America – the most powerful nation in the world – should be able to make sure detained immigrants are treated with compassion.

Finally, the approach approved by the Supreme Court represents a real missed opportunity on the part of the Trump administration.

 It's pretty clear that this conservative-leaning Supreme Court is inclined to defer to the executive branch. Trump will get to start building his wall, but a future president is likely to now have wide-ranging powers to redirect money to his or her own priorities.

 Had Trump made a deal to get wall money the normal way, through Congress, in exchange for protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and other Dreamers, he could have avoided this legal fight. His wall would already be partially complete and he would be able to demonstrate that he is a dealmaker.

 Instead, two years later, the president has a smaller amount of money to spend on the wall and has set a precedent that Democratic presidents will be able to use to redirect appropriated funds for their own priorities.

In the end, yes, border security is critical. But a wall is a symbol, not a solution to our immigration challenges.

Smart border security focuses on ports of entry, adds strategic technology, adds personnel if necessary, ensures that Customs and Border Protection has clear sight lines along the Rio Grande, and employs new physical barriers strategically and with precision. These are smart, integrated solutions that keep us safe.


Taking resources from the military to make good on a campaign slogan does nothing to keep us safe.

A better America is one that employs smarter solutions.