As the government remains shut down and hundreds of thousands of people are either unable to work — or worse, forced to work without pay — we should take some time to honestly evaluate whether it’s “worth it” or not.
The media, twisting itself into a false-middle to prevent the appearance of being biased, has turned this into a “both sides won’t back down” discussion.
But this can be a fallacious position. There’s a difference between being willing to compromise and a willingness to be compromised. These are not two valid issues looking for common ground. It’s s a blatantly bad argument with which there is no compromise.
Trump has tried to retro-fit his “solution” to some legitimate problems, but those legitimate problems aren’t only not solved by the wall, they aren’t even helped by the wall.
To elucidate exactly why that is, we need to break down the arguments for the wall. If there is no good reason to build the wall, then there’s no reason to fund the wall.
There Is No Illegal Immigration Crisis
First there is no “illegal immigrant crisis,” and it’s a lie to say otherwise. Yes, there are illegal immigrants, but that’s a far cry from it being a crisis. In fact, the numbers are going down, not up.
The number of Mexicans living in the United States illegally has gone down by over 1 million in the last decade. If Mexicans are “pouring over the border” as Trump says, then they’re pouring in a southward direction. If a wall is going to stop them, it’s going to keep them inside the United States, not out of it.
Furthermore, over the last decade, fewer and fewer of the new illegal immigrants are coming from the southern border — to the point now that roughly 3 out of 4 undocumented workers arrive by other means (usually air), and most aren’t even Mexican.
Current measures tend to be working too, cobbling together the number of apprehensions and the estimate of roughly 105,0000 new arrivals from Mexico by year, around 80 percent of those who get across the border are apprehended.
While the 100,000 might seem like a lot, that doesn’t mean a “wall” would prevent them. Even Border Patrol doesn’t think so:
Citing internal survey data collected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which queries border agents annually as to what they view as the agency’s priorities, the report found far more requests for additional investments in technology, training and personnel.
But of the 902 “capability gaps” border agents identified in last year’s survey, only 34 included requests for additional fencing. Just three — fewer than 1 percent — referenced a “wall,” according to the Democratic staffers’ report.
Look, you can argue if you want that those are still illegal immigrants and illegal is still illegal, but a southern wall isn’t going to stop them.
This is not a conversation about border security or no border security, it’s about whether the wall is what provides it, and the answer is no.
So, the wall doesn’t stop any “illegal immigrant” crisis. But it might cause one.
The “illegal immigrant” crisis is that there aren’t enough of them. According to the California Farm Bureau Federation, 55 percent of farmers are having trouble getting enough laborers. There are jobs undocumented workers will do that Americans don’t want to do.
The idea that “illegal immigrants” are “stealing jobs” from Americans is just wrong. And beyond that, with unemployment rates so low, there clearly is no shortage of jobs for Americans.
There Is a Human Smuggling Crisis, but a Wall Won’t Help
One of the fallacies Trump likes to employ is tying legitimate issues to the wall without explaining how the wall is going to stop it. One of these issues — and probably the most serious — is human trafficking.
The Guardian reported in 2010 that “The US state department estimates that more than 20,000 young women and children are trafficked across the border from Mexico each year.” That’s out of the “45,000 to 50,000” who are smuggled into the country each year.
So yes, people are trafficked across the southern border, but it’s less than half of them, and a wall wouldn’t have any impact on the ones who don’t come in across it.
But what about the 20,000 who are transported across the southern border? Wouldn’t a wall stop them?
Mike Blake of NBC reported last year:
But experts and even Trump’s own Department of Homeland Security said they are unable to guarantee that the wall would have any impact the rate of trafficking.
“That is a question I’ve been wrestling with,” Dottie Laster, executive director of the Heidi Search Center in San Antonio, Texas, and a human trafficking expert, told NBC News. “I’ve been thinking about it daily, and the truth is I don’t know if it will curb it or not.”
So there’s no assurance that it would even have a positive measurable impact on the human trafficking coming over here from Mexico.
Beyond that, there’s the possibility that it would have a negative impact, as reported by the Hill’s Melysa Sperber:
Unfortunately, many of the president’s policy and budget proposals communicate an apparent lack of understanding of human trafficking at best, or at worst a willful disregard to the women, men, and children most vulnerable to this heinous and complex crime.
Indeed, these harmful proposals affect the very populations that the annual U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report profiles as the most vulnerable in the U.S.: LGBTI individuals; foreign nationals, especially domestic workers and individuals with limited English proficiency; migrant laborers, including undocumented workers; and children, particularly those who are involved in the child welfare system, or who arrive in our country unaccompanied.
The point here is that the overall ramping up of anti-illegal immigrant rhetoric hampers investigations into human trafficking.
Undocumented workers or even legal documented workers are reluctant to cooperate with authorities in prosecuting or reporting traffickers out of fear of being deported.
Furthermore, those below the border are more susceptible to the predatory tactics of coyotes as the propaganda ratchets up.
Trump’s policies, including the wall only make it easier for traffickers to exploit the poorest and least educated on both sides of the wall, either to indenture themselves to come over here, or protect their “coyotes” once they arrive.
So while there’s little chance that it could have a positive impact on human trafficking, the wall could have a negative impact on it.
Human trafficking is a problem to solve, but the wall is not the way to solve it.
Drugs Pouring Over the Border
While it’s true that the vast majority of cocaine, heroine and meth that come into the country come over the southern border, it’s another case of applying the wrong solution to a legitimate problem.
On March 1, 2016, R. Gil Kerlikowske, then Commissioner, United States Customs and Border Protection, testifying before Congress explained why they were taking “boots off the ground” along the border.
Mr. Chairman, I go back to couple of things. One is that on the heroin issue, the majority of any heroin that we seize is not between the ports of entry, it’s smuggled through the ports of entry, whether is in San Isidro or El Paso, or whether is at JFK airport.
Heroin seizures almost predominantly are through the port of entry and either carried in a concealed part of a vehicle or carried by an individual. We don’t get much heroin seized by border patrol coming through, I think just because there are a lot of risks to the smugglers and the difficulty of trying to smuggle it through.
Nothing has changed. Drug smugglers aren’t trying to drive their drugs over the border through the desert. They’re driving them through at ports of entry, which again, isn’t a problem that a wall is going to solve.
A Wall Isn’t Going to Stop Terrorism
Not a lot of need to elaborate here. The allegations that there are “4,000 terrorists” detained at the border have been thoroughly refuted. None of those were detained at the southern border.
A Wall Isn’t Going to Stop People from Seeking Asylum
One of the more bizarre and twisted arguments for the wall is characterizing the “caravan” of asylum seekers as “invaders.”
They use the actions of a few dozen of them, one time, trying to run across the border, and a few throwing bottles and rocks, as evidence that this is some sort of hostile militant force that only a wall can hold back, as though these are White Walkers and Trump is John Snow.
It’s silly. They weren’t a threat to the country. They were trying to get into the country so they could request asylum.
Trump thinks that if we build a wall, it will be a deterrent to them from coming and seeking asylum, which is a pretty horrific argument from the humanitarian angle, but it’s stupid too.
They’re so afraid for their lives in their home country that they walk across Mexico, but a wall is going to prevent them from even trying? It’s silly. Asylum seekers are not a “problem” we need to solve, they’re people in need of help.
The Gangs and MS-13
MS-13 is a notorious gang and certainly an issue, but is it one a wall would impact?
And this year the number of MS-13 apprehended at the southern border has gone up nearly “300 percent” which is disconcerting until you realize that escalation is contradicting a trend going back to 2014, and that the total number is 123 who were known or suspected to have MS-13 affiliation.
Since 2012, roughly one in 5,000 teens or young adults apprehended at the border were suspected of any gang affiliation and only one in 15,000 were suspected of MS-13 affiliation.
Are gangs and gang violence a problem? Sure they are. But is a wall going to combat it? No.
Spending billions of dollars on a wall to stop 123 people that were caught anyway hardly seems like a big selling point.
Just Give Trump the Wall Anyway
The last argument is that the Democrats should just give it to him; that somehow not cooperating the petulant child screaming for cookies in the grocery store is just as bad as him throwing the tantrum.
But it’s not that simple because this imagines that the wall does no harm, which it does, on multiple levels.
It irreparably hurts the environment, according to 2,500 scientists, and that’s the least of the problems.
Because of its impact on agriculture, business, tourism from Mexico and the business relationships between the nations, it will cost a lot more money than just the “cost” of the wall, though the exact dollar amount is hard to put a finger on.
Still, 17 percent of our trade comes with Mexico, and it’s hard to imagine the wall doesn’t affect that some, or the tourists that come to the US from Mexico.
Then there are the farms and ranches which the wall would cut through, and the ensuing fallout damage to those economies.
Trump claims that the changes he made to NAFTA will offset the cost of the wall, but that’s at best, unsupported, and at worst, an outright lie. There is certainly no serious study that proves his argument.
Third, there is the constitutional crisis that would arise from the President trying to circumvent Congress by declaring a national emergency.
Whether it is within the President’s purview to declare a national emergency is not a question; whether he can do it in this way for this reason is another. Typically a national emergency is used for quite different reasons — such as the H1N1 virus or natural disasters like hurricanes — not for reallocating spending according to your whims.
That’s a problem because Congress is the Constitutional entity which determines how money is spent. Employed this way, the authority is a violation of the balance of powers.
If you use that logic, the President can just declare a national emergency at any time he wants to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and I’m pretty sure that’s not what the framers intended.
Look, when the Jade Helmers were screaming their weird conspiracy, they weren’t talking about how Obama had every right to do it, but this logic suggests he could have if he chose to.
So apart from destroying the environment, the economy and the Constitution, the wall would hardly do any harm at all. Seems like it’s not worth that, though, for a thing that remedies nothing.