Individual 1's tantrum over his inane border wall has real consequences. It will cause substantial economic damage in the short run
, and further damage the legitimacy and reputation of the federal government in the long run. The latter, I suppose, is a feature, not a bug, for many conservatives.
The political discourse about immigration is very much about cultural resentment vs. inclusiveness and compassion. It isn't very much about facts. The Balance is a web site that offers financial advise, but it covers issues of economic importance with accessible fact sheets. Their discussion of immigration seems to me pretty well balanced
, in other words they earn their name here, although I do have a couple of quibbles.
The first important fact that seems to get lost is that immigration has a substantial net benefit to the U.S. economy. This is partly because immigrants tend to be entrepreneurial, and because we admit quite a few people with high level technical skills. It's also because we face a structural problem with our aging population, and the fertility rate is not high enough to replace retirees in the labor force and pay for future Social Security and Medicare benefits. In other words, we really need the workers. Undocumented workers are actually a bonus because many of them pay social security and income taxes but aren't eligible to receive Medicare or Social Security.
Many politicians claim, and many people believe, that people enter the U.S. illegally in order to collect "welfare." This is 100% false. Undocumented people, and even people with green cards who have held them for less than 5 years, are ineligible for public benefits of any kind. The only arguable exception is that children do receive a public education, although it's not clear that the marginal cost of a few extra children in a school is significant. (You'd need to have enough to require a whole new classroom.) And U.S. born children are citizens and so may be eligible for Medicaid. But remember, like all children, they will go on to become workers and contribute to the economy, which is why we educate U.S. born children (among other reasons), so long-term, again, this is all good.
Undocumented immigrants do disproportionately work in certain low-wage occupations -- farm labor and restaurant kitchens -- and also in construction where they may do relatively skilled jobs such as carpentry. Kitchen and construction work may indeed displace some U.S. born workers or keep wages in those fields lower. On the other hand, that means lower prices for consumers. Housing and restaurant meals would be more expensive without immigrant labor, including undocumented immigrant labor. However, this is not true of farm labor. Even with rising wages, U.S. citizens won't do it
, in some cases leaving crops to rot in the fields.
So, we need comprehensive reform in order to supply the immigrant workers who are absolutely necessary in agriculture, and the industrious and entrepreneurial immigrants who keep our economy vibrant and innovative, while at the same time providing farm workers with dignity and personal security. Right now they are exploited and vulnerable to wage theft and sexual assault.
I don't know that there are a lot of citizens who are hurting right now because they can't get that dishwashing or food prep job they desperately want, but construction workers, at least in times of slack demand, can be said to have a legitimate beef about illegal immigration. So that should be discussed rationally.
Now, as for the inane border wall. In the first place, the majority of people who are in the U.S. illegally did not cross the border illegally, they overstayed visas. In the second place, much of the border wall already exists. There are 640 miles of physical barriers along the 1,933 mile U.S.-Mexico border
. Much of the unfenced area is essentially impenetrable because of geography. Other areas are desert in which it is possible to cross but many migrants perish. According to Dinah Bear of the organization Humane Borders:
Whereas it was common in the 1990s to see large groups of
20, 30, or even 40 migrants at a time, Bear said, Humane Borders
volunteers typically only see one or two people at a time these days.
"Most of the migrants now don't come from Mexico. They come from
Central America, which is much further," Bear said. "So by the time they
get to the border, they're already in pretty bad shape; they've just
been traveling from much further away."
Bear said it's now far more common for the nonprofit to find human remains than to find living migrants.
"When we do see a migrant, on the very few occasions we do see migrants
these days, inevitably they ask us to call the Border Patrol, because
they are in really bad shape and they need help," she said.
In other places border fencing would cause catastrophic environmental damage. There are Arizona ranchers who support building physical barriers in their own area. The U.S. has been steadily adding border fencing for decades and one could certainly make an argument for more fencing in specific areas, and some is already underway.
However, most of the unfenced border consists of the Rio Grande in Texas.
A host of laws and regulations — from international
treaties to flood-zone requirements — make wall-construction along the
Texas-Mexico border a daunting task.
obstacles mean that when fencing does get constructed, it usually ends
up being placed far inland, cutting across private property. And Texas
landowners haven't taken too kindly in the past to government officials
attempting to co-opt their land. . . .
Texas Border Volunteers, essentially a private militia group, says:
The group has observed a massive downturn in border-crossing
traffic in recent years. They attribute the change less to Trump's
tough-talk on border security, and more to the enhanced technology that
Border Patrol agents and state authorities now use.
TBV, which patrols private lands some 70 miles inland near Falfurrias,
the heightened technology means that Border Patrol is "responding
quicker" to migrant traffic, which "never gets a chance to make it [to]
where we're at."
Gibson said the technology, combined
with increased manpower of the Border Patrol and National Guard troops,
will ultimately make more of a difference in securing the border than
any physical wall could.
And this is the sensible action democrats want. More physical barriers in certain places where the locals want them and the environmental impact is acceptable; and high tech surveillance technology where the damage that would be caused by a physical barrier is unacceptable, or a barrier is technically not feasible.
There is no political disagreement about whether the border should be secure. There is only disagreement about the sensible, affordable, and non-destructive means of achieving this. The border wall is an idiotic campaign slogan, not a sensible or even possible solution.