Breaking the impasse on shutdown, border security

Breaking the impasse on shutdown, border security
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The federal government’s partial shutdown is in its fourth week and seems to have no end in sight. Allow me to propose a way that all parties can get what they really want — and, more importantly, that the country can get what it really needs.

Although I’m the son and the grandson of immigrants, I really don’t understand what is needed along our southern border. My guess is that the only people who do know are those who live along that border, not the people in Washington and not the people up north. I believe that, as a practical matter, we should ask informed people who are closest to the problem.

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Thus, I propose that Congress establish a bipartisan commission to study what should be done with some amount of money — say, $5 billion, as President Trump has demanded. Congress then would set aside that sum of money for whenever the commission issues its report, and President TrumpDonald John TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration MORE would reopen the government immediately.

Who should head this commission? Of course, both sides would have to be comfortable with the chairman. A former Supreme Court justice? (Say, Justice Kennedy.) A responsible business person? (Perhaps Bill Gates.) A former statesman? (Henry Kissinger comes to mind.) A former governor? (Maybe George Pataki of New York.) A former House Speaker? (Ohio’s John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerOn unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Bill Clinton jokes no one would skip Dingell's funeral: 'Only time' we could get the last word Left flexes muscle in immigration talks MORE, maybe.)

I would think a respected Republican most likely would appeal to all sides, so I would recommend former President George Bush, although I’m not sure everyone would agree. My understanding is that, as governor of Texas, he had responsible approaches to immigration that were respected by both political parties in the state. If Democrats weren’t comfortable with a single Republican heading the commission, there are at least two former presidents from their party who could be considered as a co-chairman.

Who should serve on the commission? How about the governors of the four states along the southern border. As it happens, there are two Republican governors and two Democratic governors — a perfectly balanced composition for such a commission. And, after all, who should know the problems better than these four? Who should know more about what’s best for the people most involved with the border than they? That would constitute a fair, bipartisan panel.

The commission would, of course, call on various experts representing all of the many issues involved in this debate, to assist in studying the situation. It would call on elected representatives of the people who are most affected; it would listen to reasoned, responsible approaches to all of the relevant concerns.

In the end, such a commission might determine that a wall is, indeed, the proper solution — or it might determine that extensions and improvements to existing walls and fencing along the border would be of absolutely no value. I don’t know the answer, and I doubt that many Americans honestly do know it, either, at this moment.

Yet, if a well-reasoned plan by a bipartisan commission of people who know what is best says a wall is the most practical, effective solution, then the money already would have been set aside to build it. If other approaches were deemed more worthy, then the money would be there for those as well. And if a combination of a wall and other approaches were judged to be best, the money would be there for that alternative, too.

Almost as important, all sides in this debate would have found a face-saving yet intelligent way out of our current impasse, which no one seems capable of achieving at this highly divisive moment.

In this way, everyone wins — especially the American people, who need not only border security but also all of the other services that are not being performed because of this partial shutdown of our federal government.

Lucius J. Riccio, Ph.D., is a lecturer in discipline at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University in New York, concentrating on analytics, decision-modeling and operations management. He is executive vice president of Gedeon GRC Consulting, an engineering and consulting firm, and previously was commissioner of New York City’s Department of Transportation, an assistant director of research at the Police Foundation in Washington, and a consultant to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Federal Judicial Center and to the Department of Justice.