Editor’s Note: Michelle García is a journalist and Soros Equality Fellow through the Open Society Foundations. She is working on a book about borders. Follow her on Twitter: @pistoleraprod. The views expressed here are the author’s. View more opinion on CNN.

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In conceding to fund roughly 55 miles of new border wall, Democrats may have temporarily averted another government shutdown but they have once again reloaded the Republicans’ favored weapon. The border has proven to possess enough firepower to rile up the GOP base, stoke divisiveness and serve as a blunt tool to batter away at Democrats, whose push for respecting migrants’ rights and immigration reform they wrongly equate with a call for open borders.

Michelle García
Alan Chin
Michelle García

News of the tentative deal, which reportedly includes $1.375 billion for various types of border barriers, began circulating Monday night during twin rallies in El Paso, Texas, held by President Donald J. Trump and possible Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke.

If Trump signs off on the deal, he gets far less border wall funding than he initially demanded, in the immediate, but he wins critical credibility for the Republicans’ unsubstantiated and false claims of a border security crisis. Worse, by conceding to the wall in any form, Democrats have yielded to a monument of a violent, racist ideology. “The just-below-the-surface message is this,” wrote CNN’s Chris Cillizza about Trump’s “dog whistle” rhetoric on immigration and the border. “White people made this country great. Brown people are flooding in.”

The wall’s symbolic message helps explain why some of the fiercest opposition to the border wall is found among people of color. Some 87% of blacks and 71% of Latinos oppose the wall, according to a 2018 Quinnipiac Poll, compared with 55% of whites. Almost all border wall opponents, according to the Pew Research Center in January, were against wall funding as a way to end the government shutdown.

Not only have Democrats betrayed part of their base politically, they have also agreed to additional wall construction in the heavily populated Rio Grande Valley, a Latino majority Democratic stronghold some 700 miles down the border from El Paso. Many Texas Latinos that I know have some connection to the valley and the region represents a center of cultural identity and historical richness, where ranching traditions and familial roots predate the border.

O’Rourke, in his 2018 bid to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, heavily courted the valley and Latino constituents. Their turnout helped him come within 2 percentage points of winning and has made Texas, which is “majority-minority,” arguably a competitive state for Democrats.

The deal also indicates a willingness by some Democrats to sacrifice priorities. Already, construction has resulted in the federal government seizing land belonging to working-class families that Democrats profess to represent. Meanwhile, existing border wall stops short of a well-manicured golf club and resort. Evidently, wealth is its own security. To build the wall, the federal government has waived dozens of laws protecting air, endangered species and habitat at a time when many Democrats are eager to show their bona fides as climate change warriors by signing on to an ambitious green new deal.

“It’s just more hypocrisy from Congress,” said Mariana Treviño Wright, executive director of the National Butterfly Center, which lies in the path of the wall. “To be pro-environment and then desecrate acres of conservation corridor for a border wall built 2 miles inland that also seizes private property.”

The tentative new deal reportedly includes some undefined restrictions to address environmental concerns. However, limits inserted in the 2018 wall funding have not spared the Butterfly Center, a 19th century church, private property and wildlife refuge. Bulldozers are in position, Wright told me, and landowners are in court. Hours after the new deal was announced, lawyers for the Butterfly Center filed for an injunction and restraining order, indicating a lack of confidence in congressional promises.

Rather than bring an end to border security fights, Democrats may have signed on to a never-ending battle with the President’s stated goal of “operational control” of the border as defined in his executive order as preventing the entry of all contraband. Even more, Democrats have squandered the opportunity to demonstrate leadership on the border by claiming the border as a site of inclusiveness.

In El Paso on Monday, Trump again used the wall as a platform in a wide-ranging speech marked by making false statements and demonizing asylum seekers. O’Rourke, a former El Paso congressman who voted for the 2018 spending bill that included funding for the border wall, has anchored his message of unity at the border. At his rally, O’Rourke equated a stand for America as a stand against walls.

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    “There is no bargain in which we can sacrifice some of our humanity to gain a little more security. We know that we deserve and will lose both of them if we do,” he said. “Let’s make sure that our laws, our language, and our leaders reflect our values, who we are, our experience.” O’Rourke’s words then drifted into the night air, soon after the deal was announced and far away from the site of the new wall and the impending destruction.