Third Party & Independents Archives

Another Brick in the Wall

This past week, President Bush signed into law a bill authorizing the construction of a 700 mile long boondoggle along the U.S. - Mexico border. At least $1.2 billion will be spent to build a barrier that (even when complete) will be incomplete, as it leaves more than 1,000 miles of the border wide open.

(I wish I had some artistic ability, because I would draw political cartoons. The one I have in mind right now is an angled, aerial view of the very end of the wall. The ground would be covered in the footprints of those who just went around. I can picture it, but I can’t draw it.)

But even a wall that stretched from sea to shining sea would not stop the immigration problem we have today. As Daniel Griswold of the libertarian think-tank Cato Institute points out in this article,

The fees smugglers charge will continue to rise, along with their sophistication. More anonymous bodies will pile up in morgues as workers enter through even harsher terrain. And those immigrants who enter will tend to stay longer because of the high risk and expense of re-entering.

Even if we could fence all 2,000 miles of the border with Mexico, illegal immigration would continue because of visa "overstayers." A third or more of people living in the United States illegally actually entered the country legally and then overstayed their visas.

…If congressional leaders truly want a "secure border," any enforcement efforts must be combined with comprehensive immigration reform.

Congressional leaders are under pressure to “do something”. With something that vague as their motivation, and with a budget that needs no balancing, it is no wonder they passed this bill. They have done “something”, even if it is a boondoggle. When it fails, they can always point partisan fingers at their opponents, and continue not to address any real issues.

Why is there a call for a wall, anyway?

Security is a legitimate concern. I don’t know anyone who actually denies this. A wide open border is a dream come true for those who would do harm to the United States. But it has been shown time and time again that the government is inefficient and ineffective at stopping people from doing what they want to do. Any attempt to cut off the supply of immigrants without addressing the various demands is an attempt to deny the realities of human behavior. And as long as there are hundreds of thousands of people a year who find it easier to sneak across the border than to go through the tortuous process of following the current laws, finding actual threats to national security is like finding a needle in a haystack. The answer is to make it so that they only people trying to enter illegally are the people who would do us harm as a nation. At that point, the Border Patrol would be able to address their mission with a much higher rate of success.

For the record, while I don’t think that racism plays a primary role in this debate, neither can I deny that it does play some role. Imagine the scenario if over 12 million Canadians were thought to be in this country illegally. And imagine that a few million English-speaking peoples from northern and western Europe had crossed our border by first traveling to Canada. Would the level of concern be the same? Perhaps for some, but not for all. So I recognize that plays into this issue, but it does not negate the legitimate security concern, so please do not dismiss the issue as “only” based on prejudice. The current intolerable, authoritarian state of affairs simply provides racists an opportunity to hide among the rational when they say, “There are too many people crossing that border illegally.”

Take a stand instead for the principles of liberty that made this nation great.

Posted by Wulf at October 31, 2006 10:10 AM
Comments
Comment #192064

We used to make false teeth from wood, why are we still not doing that very same thing today? My point is just because we needed to have immigration two hundred years ago do we still need it today with 300 million of us already here? If so, should it be an orderly process and we the people determine based upon our prefereces who and when? Or should it be dictated to us by anybody that chooses from anywhere in the world? Should they determine that we should learn their language and customs or should learn ours? Should they drive down wages and living standards whilst we pay for their health care.

Posted by: j2t2 at October 31, 2006 11:00 PM
Comment #192067

Wulf said: “But even a wall that stretched from sea to shining sea would not stop the immigration problem we have today.”

That is a completely false statement. A barrier can and will greatly reduce the scope of the illegal immigration problem we have today. Barriers drive up the cost of circumventing them, and considering the relative poverty of those now coming across, that price increase would reduce demand to cross. It won’t diminish desire to cross, but, it will diminish the numbers able to afford to circumvent the barriers. At this very elementary level of economics, the barrier will significantly reduce illegal immigration.

And reduced flow, will come efficiency in interdiction and return, thereby making the illegal immigrant’s cost to cross wasted resources, further diminishing the desire to even try again, having lost so much the last time.

Couple the fence with a crack down on illegal hiring without exception where discovered, and within a fairly short time, the problem of illegal immigration drops to a manageable trickle.

But, I agree with you 100% Wulf, these half hearted efforts by our government, and retarded time schedule to secure our nation, having not even begun until 5 years after 9/11, speaks volumes about the lack of commitment to tackle this problem due to the intense lobbying by business to take it slow, and piecemeal.

Posted by: David R. Remer at October 31, 2006 11:06 PM
Comment #192073

Wulf,

“Security is a legitimate concern. I don’t know anyone who actually denies this. A wide open border is a dream come true for those who would do harm to the United States.”

Let me give you an analogy.

Way back in the eighties I was a car alarm installer. The clients I served were paranoid that their Beamers, and their Mercedes and their other nice rides would some day disappear. The problem was that these alarms only kept away the kids that didn’t have a clue what they were doing, but did nothing but give a false sense of security against the experts that could be in and gone with the car, before the alarm realized they were there.

This fence is that false sense of security.

It may turn away the poor Bracero looking to give his family a better life in America, but does nothing about those that know better, and don’t really care about the fence.

I will guarantee you, when this fence or wall or whatever barrier that is built (if it is ever built), is completed, America will be no safer than the day before the project was started.

If the intention is to keep out the illegal Mexican migrant, fine build your wall if it makes you feel better.
If your intention is to make America safer spending the money to build this barrier, buy a lottery ticket, the odds are better.

Posted by: Rocky at October 31, 2006 11:14 PM
Comment #192114

David, a complete wall would stem the movement of the poorest, of course. That would be when, 2020? I stand by my comment that today’s immigration problem will be unaffected.

In your comment here and your article last week, you berate the government for their slow action. I don’t think the wall is a good idea, but I do agree that if the issue is serious enough to require a wall, then building it slowly makes no sense. But I think you are focused more on the economic impact of millions of impoverished Latinos than of people who mean harm to the USA. Some of them are farmers, some of them are petty criminals, some of them are even violent drug gangs (Prohibition II is a failure), but the ones who will be stopped are the ones who mean us the least harm - as Rocky notes.

It won’t stop terrorists. It is not legitimate to view this as part of the War on Terror. It is a part of our pseudo-socialist economic safety net that we have built in this country, that we are afraid every Mexican in Mexico wants to jump into. And we basically just announced last call.

Maybe the problem is the net, not the Mexicans.

Posted by: Wulf at November 1, 2006 6:39 AM
Comment #192952

Rocky and Wulf, you are of course, both wrong and blind to the outstanding fact about stemming the numbers coming across the border.

Let me give you a picture you both can understand.

Take two houses, House A is infested by years of cockroach population explosions, and another, House B, with just a few newly brought in by the grocery bags. You walk into the kitchen with a spray can to kill them.

In House A, you can spray until 5 cans of the stuff are emptied and not make a dent in the population. In House B, spraying the one or two you see on the counter for a couple nights, while perhaps not getting everyone, certainly, keeps their numbers from exploding.

The difference between House A and B is the barrier that slows the numbers to a trickle. Will it eradicate each and every potential terrorist determined to get in? No. But, it will so reduce the 1.2 million now crossing, as to permit our enforcement and intelligence authorities to focus on the few thousand each year who continue to try. Thereby increasing their efficiency by magnitudes.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 2, 2006 9:17 PM
Comment #192968

David,

I don’t dispute your point about stopping Illegals crossing the border en mass.

A fence from sea to shining sea will accomplish that aim.

That said, those that want to get in bad enough, and know what they are doing, will still get in.
1,700 miles is a lot of border to patrol (and that’s just Mexico), and those that come in one or two at a time (as a terrorist would), are still going to be able to get past the security.

Posted by: Rocky at November 2, 2006 10:19 PM
Comment #193017

Rocky, agreed. There is no fool proof system in the offing. Stemming the flow however, helps us focus resources on potential incomers, far more efficiently and productively, however.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 3, 2006 6:52 AM
Comment #193174

Someone on NPR yesterday mentioned that about half of all illegals get in legally, but then overstay visas, etc. Found this link that reiterates that view:

http://pewhispanic.org/factsheets/factsheet.php?FactsheetID=19

Walls have no effect on those who enter legally; only BIG fines levied on employers of illegals would make a dent.

Since the main reason they come here is to work, the obvious, sanest, smartest course is to cherchez the employers. Instead, this administration, which thinks in toddler-like literal concepts, wants to build an actual wall.

The idea that the U.S., of all places, wants to wall itself in is repulsive. Doesn’t anyone else find this shameful?

Posted by: pianofan at November 3, 2006 5:51 PM
Comment #193392

pianofan, will it be easier to deal with 25,000 crossing illegally each year or 1.2 million? That is the difference a border barrier can make. (Along with strong enforcement of hiring laws and other mesures).

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 5, 2006 5:53 AM
Comment #206160

Gday call me slow on the up take but whats the point of a fence,.like okay imagine its like a river and you want to put a net across the river to catch them,well whats happening is it gets broken some fall through the net etc,thus creating lots of money to be spent like repairing the net,.well the simple way to fix this is 2 look at it diffrent, and simply,.
why are these people jumping in the river who are the people throwing them in the river,.like why dosnt anyone go up the river where they are jumping in,..mm.?like a billion dollors is alot of money to stop people
jumping in the river,.
the people that jump in the river are ripped of both ends?
is it rascism?
greed from company that a raping our planet?
is this like a wall like in Berlin?
if there is a wall dosnt it make the grass all ways greener on the otherside?
couldnt that be enough money to take up the river to start programs ie to help them stop,or into other programs that could benefit both sides like take some money down the river also.

Posted by: jonathan grech at February 1, 2007 3:25 PM
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