Border Agent Killing

A U.S. Border Patrol vehicle patrols northwest of Nogales, Ariz. in this 2010 file photo. (Greg Bryan/Arizona Daily Star via AP, File)

What if Republicans played “Let’s Make a Deal” on border security, and all they walked away with was a lousy consolation prize?

Maybe a set of steak knives.

That’s essentially what happened this week when congressional negotiators announced a compromise that would stave off another government shutdown while also funding increased security on the U.S.-Mexico border — and avoiding a pointless argument over a border wall.

The deal pledges $1.375 billion for border enhancements like steel-slatted barriers and other “existing technologies” and $1.7 billion for additional security measures and humanitarian aid. The proposed new barriers would account for just 55 miles, which is a far cry from the more than 200 miles the White House sought. And the new fencing is likely to be limited to the portion of the border that cradles Texas.

The East Coast media — which should be banned from ever discussing immigration because they know so little about it — was quick to tell the story sunny side up and label the deal a bipartisan compromise.

That’s an insult to the concepts of “compromise” and “bipartisanship.”

In 2007, Democrats killed immigration reform and then made it look like Republicans were holding the gun.

In 2010, five Senate Democrats voted against cloture and killed the Dream Act, which would have given legal status to undocumented young people and then made it look like Republicans had deep-sixed the measure.

And now, in 2019, after Democrats repeatedly said that they would support more money for border security in the form of new fencing, additional agents and enhanced technology — as long as not one dollar went to build a wall out of concrete, plexiglass or steel — that is what this deal from Senate and House negotiators comes down to.

And that’s why this is a triple win for Democrats. They got everything they wanted (no second shutdown). They only gave up something they were willing to give up anyway (additional border funding). And, in the process, they didn’t have to go along with something they oppose (a wall).

On top of that, the border deal would match the funding level for 2018, which means that all the hullabaloo about the shutdown and the “build the wall” rallies didn’t move the needle one bit.

It’s no wonder that President Trump — who knows a bad deal when he sees one, unless he’s the one inking it — was not pleased with the offer.

“It’s not going to do the trick,” Trump told reporters Tuesday.

Yet, Trump is stuck between a wall and losing face. He can threaten all he wants to sidestep Congress and go it alone with an emergency order.

But who is he kidding? That’s never going to happen. And for the same reason that Democrats killed immigration reform and the Dream Act. Trump doesn’t want to be the sole owner and operator of a border wall that may wind up being a giant eyesore that goes over budget and, in the end, doesn’t even work because people still keep coming.

And come they will until Trump and members of Congress grow the spines to do what they don’t want to do but what also happens to be the only thing that will curb illegal immigration: punish employers. Notice how this little item somehow got left out of the border deal.

Tired of illegal immigrants? Gee, that’s a little ungrateful given all the chores they’ve already done for you. Nevertheless, here’s how you get rid of them: Dry up the jobs that lure them here.

Anything else is just political theater, a foolish distraction and a colossal waste of time. You know, like the Trump presidency itself.

Ruben Navarrette is a columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.