Beyond a matter of priorities, the concept of a wall has become more palatable for Democrats as its imagined scope has shrunk. Aside from the occasional Trump tweet, no one at the highest levels of his administration or in the congressional Republican leadership is talking about building the kind of structure conjured by the president’s 2016 campaign rhetoric: a 2,000-mile version of the Great Wall of China. What Democrats once feared would be a hulking symbol of the nation’s inward turn has evolved into something much more pedestrian—some new physical barriers, certainly, but mostly the kind of fencing, drone technology, and non-wall infrastructure they’ve readily supported in the past.
Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Republican who’s spoken often to Trump about immigration, said in a recent floor speech that the president had referred to the Secure Fence Act of 2006, a law that passed with bipartisan support and called for nearly 700 miles of fencing along the Southern border. “Well basically, we’re talking about the same thing,” Cornyn recalled Trump saying. The semantics, Cornyn added, were less important. “Call it a fence. Call it a wall. Call it a barrier. Whatever you want to call it.”
Immigration-reform advocates have noticed the change.