In the midst of a
non-shutdown government shutdown, the majority of those on the right side of the US political spectrum are demanding that President Donald Trump be allowed to build his wall on the southern border.
By all accounts, it’s a fancy, nice-looking wall with good aesthetics. Why that seems to be a point being made… I’m not sure. The stated price-tag, according to Republicans and supporters of the wall, is $5 billion that has been forcefully-seized from American citizens. Never mind the fact that the promise was that Americans were not going to foot a cent of the bill for this wall. Now, “non-essential” parts of the government have been shut down in order to try and force us to pay for it.
The wall and illegal immigration
The main purpose of the wall, according to its advocates, is to reduce illegal immigration.
What’s interesting about this goal is that the overwhelming majority of illegal immigrants (“undocumented”; whatever you want to call them) have attained illegal status because of an expired visa. They came in by legal means, but simply overstayed. A wall does absolutely nothing to prevent this.
It also does absolutely nothing to prevent going around, over, or under the wall, which is something that is common for people who want to evade such a structure. It can and will be done by a large number of people.
Will it deter some? Of course. But certainly will not stop the majority.
The anti-illegal immigrant narrative
What is it about illegal immigrants that seems to bother so many on the right?
Their chief concern about illegal immigrants is that they are receiving benefits paid for by American citizens without any financial contribution. As an example of this argument is on the website of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). This particular article adds up a bunch of taxpayer costs that it claims are being paid by taxpayers due to the presence of illegal immigrants.
There are a number of criticisms I have of the suppositions of the article. The first being that many of the costs it produces are present whether illegal immigrants are in the country or not. Things like law enforcement, and to a degree, education, are constants.
Also, the largest portion of the costs the article lists comes from state and local governments. So, we are mixing a federal issue with a local one. Since state and local governments have no control over immigration policy (that’s a federal issue), it seems odd to include those costs. If your state is foolish enough to pay out on social programs to non-citizens, then the problem needs to be addressed at that level. It has nothing to do with a wall, which is an extension of federal policy. And at the federal level, illegal immigrants qualify for very few social services.
It’s as if the article seeks to inflate costs to make them sound more ominous than they actually are.
The article, as with most of the opinions about illegal immigration coming from the right, fails to mention the economic benefit of 12 million additional consumers to the markets. Why do cities and states constantly try to persuade people to immigrate to them? Because of the economic benefits that come from more consumers. More people means more spending and more jobs.
The wall and criminals
But what about the wall curtailing a flood of violent criminals passing through the border in the dark of night?
If you are under constant threat of being deported, it follows that you are going to want to keep a very low profile so as not to draw attention to yourself. In fact, the violent crime rate amongst illegal immigrants is far lower than that of the general population. Here’s an article with a couple of charts to demonstrate.
What about terrorists sneaking through the border?
To date, there has never been a terror attack committed against the United States that came from someone who had snuck across the border. Might there be some that get through? Probably, but it’s difficult to justify the high expense of the wall when law enforcement has already been successful by using other means of detecting and preventing terrorism. As was previously stated, a wall would do little to prevent people from entering into the country illegally.
What about preventing the flood of illegal substances, contraband, drugs, and weapons moving across the border?
The vast majority of those come through the front gate, not the back door. Most contraband moves past the border through legal gates and ports with people using legal documents. The amount of contraband crossing weak spots in the border on the backs of traffickers pales in comparison to the amount that simply cannot be stopped in the flood of vehicles, ships, and shipping containers moving through the border with contraband hidden. It is impossible to check every nook and cranny of every vehicle, shipping container, and ship.
Once again, a wall will do very little to deter this activity, as well as the more advanced techniques now being deployed by traffickers, such as submarines.
Since the wall is being discussed here, too much writing would be required to explain the advantages of legalizing such substances anyway.
A largely ineffective wall, paid for by money that has essentially been confiscated from American citizens, that will do very little of what it has been marketed to do, is not a good idea. While I support shutting down any part of the government that could be considered non-essential, trying to blackmail the country into building a monstrosity of mostly-useless infrastructure is bad policy.
If you are going to confiscate my money against my will, could I ask that it at least be spent in a slightly more fiscally-responsible manner?
This article represents the views of the author, and not those of Being Libertarian LLC.
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