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Editorial: Tom Reed pitched useful compromise on border, but then backed away

We hope Rep. Tom Reed is planning to be as good as his word. He had a good idea on border security recently, but then seemed to back away from it. He had it right the first time.

The Corning Republican, co-chair of the congressional Problem Solvers Caucus, promised last fall that he was “all in” on restoring respectful debate to the House of Representatives and standing up to radicalism.

Radicalism is closing the government over a disputed border wall when other, better solutions to controlling the border are possible. So it was good to see Reed point out that the wall is “just not practical,” and propose a broader approach to border security while, at the same time, dealing with other immigration issues, including the heartbreaking plight of the “Dreamers” – undocumented residents illegally brought into the country as children by their parents.

As though he were speaking to thoughtful, rational people, Reed said: “I ask my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to put aside the partisanship and the divide that the border wall has created, and really focus on what we can come together on and agree on what needs to be done in terms of border security as well as fixing the broken immigration policies that got us here.”

What reasonable person could criticized that approach? Even people who are dead-set against a border wall costing billions of dollars recognize – or should recognize – that it is in any nation’s interests to manage its borders. The question is what will work and at what cost, both financial and social.

It has also been obvious for years that the country’s immigration laws need to be revised. There is an opportunity in this unnecessary stalemate to attack that issue.

Reed last week envisioned a border that could feature a variety of security features that might includes a wall of some description in some areas and other strategies in others, depending on the advice of experts who have studied the question. This week, though, following President Trump’s televised speech, he seemed to buy into the need to build the wall. That’s not problem-solving.

It’s important, too, to keep the issue in context: Border security is important, but there has been no evidence of a crisis that requires panic or failure to take into account other important priorities, including, as just one example, the consequences of a warming climate.

Governing is about making choices and it’s clear Congress is not going to approve billions of dollars for a dubious border wall. Reed opened the door to a sensible approach that, as he says, would allow all sides to claim a measure of victory through the art of compromise.

That’s the way democracy is supposed to work. Here’s hoping Reed’s colleagues include enough cool heads to think this through.

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