There's a crisis on the border! Murderers, rapists, and thieves are spilling over from Mexico! Gang members, criminals, rapists and terrorists are invading the country! Our economy and welfare system is sucked dry by a parasitic class of lazy ingrates who are also stealing all our jobs and they must be stopped! Build a wall! Or a fence! Anything that assuages my insecurity!
Now that I'm done being sarcastic, let me say how I really feel. The border wall is an ineffectual public works project designed to assuage the irrational fears of President Trump's xenophobic base. It tramples on property rights, worsens intergovernmental relations, and strengthens domestic tensions - not only unnecessarily, but in a way which feigns participation by proxy. It's the armchair quarterback of foreign policy and it will end as all other border walls have - by being torn down for scrap metal. And Mexico is definitley NOT going to pay for it.
So let's get this out of the way – the wall is not in anyone's way. They could go over, under, or around it. And there is no chance that Trump is building a Canadian wall along our biggest border. So that will always be insecure. This is a rather ingenious way to encourage boating and planes though – I wonder how difficult it is to be a stowaway these days?
So let's hit the primary reasons we are even talking about this, starting with the argument that immigrants south of the border are criminals (a view heavily promoted and endorsed by Trump and his administratin).
Trump is quoted as saying “We have people coming into the country or trying to come in, we're stopping a lot of them, but we're taking people out of the country. You wouldn't believe how bad these people are... These aren't people. These are animals." The Trump White House also held a press conference that discussed Obama-era facts and figures, that claimed the murders caused by criminal immigrants were comparable to the struggles of families split at the border. He said “These are the American citizens permanently separated from their loved ones, the word ‘permanently’ being the one you have to think about... They’re not separated for a day or two days. They’re permanently separated.”
There are problems with this mentality and they are most presciently addressed by the Cato Institute's Alex Nowrasteh in a piece outlining the “misleading & error ridden narratives on immigrants and crime”. Alex almost conclusively proves that not only are immigrants less likely to commit crimes, (even on a per capita basis), but that even on that same per capita basis, non-native populations were less likely to be convicted of murder. So assuming he's acting in good faith...who is Trump actually trying to help by tying murder victims to migrants?
How do you prevent murder when the same President wants to indiscriminately shoot migrants at the border? Yes, you read that right. It was covered well by Cody Johnston and the Some More News team. The President can be quoted as saying it would be “effective” to kill these people, and that he “doesn't want to”. But he's also called migrants an invading force of murderous criminals, and historically suggested killing terrorist's families, and bemoaned the military for not being able to act militarily in response to these “invaders”.
So let's talk about that immigration “invasion”. Al Jazeera Plus did a great report in 2015 about myths Trump spread on immigration, and in it, hit the fact that net migration was zero. Net migration is the amount of people leaving as compared to migrating into the country. They also went over tax boosts, and noted that people who make claims about migrants and crime ignore the motives for migration, and that people coming here probably don't want to be sent back for breaking the law. Which brings me to the raw numbers.
According to an article on CNN (citing the Migration Policy Institute) “more than 12 million people were "deported" -- either removed or returned -- from the US during the Clinton administration. More than 10 million were removed or returned during the Bush administration. Far fewer -- more than 5 million -- were removed or returned during the Obama administration.” They cited this number to address a claim that Trump has deported less people than Obama. They also, however, cite the reason, tapping Cecilia Muñoz, a “top domestic policy advisor” to Obama, as saying "A straight numbers-by-numbers comparison doesn't provide an accurate picture of what was going on in the administration... If you're not targeting and focused on people who recently arrived, then the border is effectively open... It is more humane to be removing people who have been here two weeks than it is to be removing people who have been here for 20 years and have families." So yes, Trump deported less people which means less “criminals”. Great job if that's “the reason” you insist upon being the basis for enhanced border security and building a wall.
So what about jobs? The economy? Crash Course did a great video in 2016 and not only does immigration create an economic surplus, especially when they are paid better, but it also creates a greater pool of high-skilled workers (as much as it allows in the low skilled ones). It enriches our nation yet people continue to bemoan them? I mean if you listen to Ann Coulter, the US is “bringing in immigrants whose specialty is committing crimes against entitlement programs”. A video done by PolicyEd cites that the “invading illegals” can't even get welfare, much less at a volume necessary to upend an economy, nor can legal ones get it until 5 years of citizenship, at least.
And the “welfare queen” stereotype – originally designed to describe people getting rich off welfare by committing fraud – is now applied to everyone...even someone going for an ER visit. PBS Newshour went over revealed how this stereotype was designed to demonize poor minorities, even though it could apply to many people across the socio-economic spectrum. By these standards, military members would be better recipients of the Welfare Queen award – an assertion which I'm sure the same people on the right (disproportionately pushing immigration control and walls) would go into apoplexy over.
So what about the gang threat? Immigration Impact, a project of the American Immigration Council notes:
“The efforts to criminalize large communities of immigrants are clearly political in nature and not driven by any evidence. It is a well-established fact that immigrants are less likely than the native-born to end up behind bars. And there is evidence that immigrant youth in particular are less prone to criminal or high-risk behaviors than their native-born counterparts. For instance, one study tracked 1,354 “high risk” adolescents over the course of seven years and found that the immigrants in the sample were less likely than the native-born to be repeat offenders. In the words of the authors, immigrants “appear to be on a path toward desistance much more quickly than their peers.”
Another study yielded similar findings based on data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). The study found that “immigrant youth who enrolled in U.S. middle and high schools in the mid-1990s and who are young adults today had among the lowest delinquency rates of all youth.”
And the same source cites the Immigrant Legal Resource Center as saying:
“This report details findings from a national survey and qualitative interviews of immigration attorneys who have represented individuals accused of gang affiliation in immigration proceedings, concluding that gang allegations against immigrants are on the rise across the country, are predominantly against Latinx4 youth, and that evidence, if presented, is often suspect, involving reliance on a single individual’s accusation, and/or social media pictures depicting youth wearing popular brands and sports paraphernalia.”
And even the MS13 connections being pushed are spurious at best. The Washington Post reports:
“Only a minuscule share of undocumented immigrants who have entered the country in the past few years are linked to MS-13, according to Stephanie Leutert at the University of Texas. The overwhelming majority of those who have joined the gang in Central America have never left their countries. A Florida International University survey of mostly imprisoned gang members in El Salvador in 2016 showed that 91 percent have never been in the United States. Those who leave often do so because of family, joining the massive migration flows from Central America, not because the gang instructs or sponsors them. In many cases, they are trying to flee the group and its violence.”
What this demonstrates is that there is not a foreign gang problem (especially one worse than what's offered domestically), but that the reason a significant number of people think there is one is because of a xenophobic smear campaign lacking credible evidence. “But what about drugs?”, Cato covered that too – only about 16% of drug traffickers were illegal immigrants in 2018 (only some of whom were from Mexico, or who had used the southern border to get in), while the vast majority of them were Americans. 77%! Maybe that percentage would be lower if we ended the costly and deadly War on Drugs and the evil gang-member-illegal-drug-killer invasion would be stemmed! But we can't do that. That's too reasonable and we need unreasonable solutions.
Now we will deal with “The Wall”. First and foremost – Mexico is not paying for it. And why should they? Pay for a sketchy security blanket for dumb, uneducated xenophobes who simultaneously say their country is number one while blaming many of the obvious reasons it isn't on outsiders? Nice try. But Trump didn't even try – nor did he ever plan to. Why would he? He's fond of lying.
So how's he gonna do it? Simple. First, he built up fear and panic around an invasion. Then he postured that the military would be a solution to the invasion. Now he's diverting defense funds to do that. And it's not even a wall – it's a fence. Nice job stopping trafficking – now not only can they get under, over, and around it, but they can also just send things directly through it. In an article that admits that by simply calling it a “border barrier”, the article says:
“Senior Trump administration officials are considering a plan to again divert billions of dollars in military funding to pay for border barrier construction next year, a way to circumvent congressional opposition to putting more taxpayer money toward the president’s signature project, according to three administration officials.”
And went on to say that, “The documents also show that the government would need to obtain — either by eminent-domain claims or purchases — land that lies under nearly 200 miles of proposed barrier.” So he's stealing from the common person to fund a wall that will require theft of more private property, and probably won't have too much effect, in the direction he wants it to. Fantastic job. Really great. Some would even say “the best”.
And all this brings up a question – what are borders good for? I personally take the position that closed borders are ill-advised, and I agree with Aileen Teague at FEE that using the borders as a political football is also wrong:
[Nixon and Reagan] showed that it is effectively impossible to close the U.S.-Mexico border, or to severely restrict traffic, for any extended period of time. The economic, social, and cultural interdependence of Mexico and the United States is too deep. And U.S. national security depends on strong relations with Mexico. Trump’s warnings about an “invasion” of Hispanic rapists and gang members may appeal to his supporters. His threat to close the border may as well. But, as his advisers apparently pointed out to him, border closings do little more than damage economies and foster resentments. Immigration would dip but hardly stop.
But I'm also sympathetic to the notion of stopping free riders on a system which robs us all. Any system with notable subcomponents such as civil asset forfeiture, eminent domain, and compulsory taxation is fundamentally attractive to a parasite class. Of course, that parasite class is better represented by the “too-big-to-fail” billionaires than it is by poor immigrants trying to obey laws and keep their nose clean in the “Land Of Opportunity”.
And this border has issues at its root (since borders, from French bordeure, are bands around a nation designed to serve treaties between governments who historically got their land by conquest and genocide), it is no surprise they're utilized unethically. For instance, what are colloquially referred to as “constitution free zones” are 100 mile areas in the US where the constitution does not apply. From the ACLU:
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects Americans from random and arbitrary stops and searches.According to the government, however, these basic constitutional principles do not apply fully at our borders. For example, at border crossings (also called "ports of entry"), federal authorities do not need a warrant or even suspicion of wrongdoing to justify conducting what courts have called a "routine search," such as searching luggage or a vehicle.
Even in places far removed from the border, deep into the interior of the country, immigration officials enjoy broad—though not limitless—powers. Specifically, federal regulations give U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) authority to operate within 100 miles of any U.S. "external boundary."
In this 100-mile zone, Border Patrol agents have certain additional authorities. For instance, Border Patrol can operate immigration checkpoints.
The spread of border-related powers inland is inseparable from the broader expansion of government intrusion in the lives of ordinary Americans. For example, CBP claims the authority to conduct suspicionless searches of travelers' electronic devices—such as laptops and cell phones—at ports of entry, including international arrivals at airports. These searches are particularly invasive as a result of the wealth of personal information stored on such devices. At least one circuit court has held that federal officers must have at least "reasonable suspicion" prior to conducting such searches and recent Supreme Court precedent seems to support that view.
These practices also coincide with the spread of numerous border technologies, including watch list and database systems (such as the Automated Targeting System traveler risk assessment program), advanced identification and tracking systems (including electronic passports), and intrusive technological schemes such as the "virtual border fence" and unmanned aerial vehicles (aka "drone aircraft"). With many of these technologies in the hands of private companies, there are powerful financial incentives for the continued "militarization" of the border zone.
So what do borders really represent? Control, obviously. Control of regions, resources, travel, foreign relations, and in the end? People. You. Ron Paul was scoffed at the 2011 “debates” for daring to suggest this. He rightly said the following:
“The people that want big fences and guns, sure, we could secure the border. A barbed wire fence with machine guns, that would do the trick. I don’t believe that is what America is all about.... Every time you think about this toughness on the border and ID cards and REAL IDs, think it’s a penalty against the American people too. I think this fence business is designed and may well be used against us and keep us in. In economic turmoil, the people want to leave with their capital and there’s capital controls and there’s people controls. Every time you think about the fence, think about the fences being used against us, keeping us in.”
So with the amount of social unrest coming down the pike, with economic devastation inevitable stemming from the collapse of the dollar, and with a President who treats all dealings with well-armed foreign governments like a playpen wherein he can get what he wants or take his toys and go home, ask yourself how much power you want to give these people, in exchange for a fence. And remember – that's what it is. A fence.
For me? I uphold the old chant of many a protester. “I don't want your wars, I don't want your borders – I won't take your bloody orders.” I oppose the border, and see this fence as nothing more than the latest marionette in the intermission between downfall and catastrophe, and I'd rather seek my ineffectual entertainment elsewhere, preferably from a less bigoted source.
There is no Mexican gang problem, crime isn't a factor (even if it's not zero like Ann Coulter naively demands) and closing the border isn't a realistic solution either. America was theoretically built on the promises of a good future to the downtrodden, but it seems all we can do as of late is to spit on the ground next to them and demand they clean it.
I didn't even touch on the amount of devastation the US brought to poor countries, including Mexico – and I could have. Maybe it's even in our best moral interest to have them here – after all, how would you feel if your cities were reduced to rubble by US airstrikes, or destroyed by US planted dictators? Probably like the least they could do is let you find a job and a house in a place less fraught with their imposed destruction. Maybe give some of them amnesty. Or at least let kids stay. Or allow workers to be employed while in the US.
Or you could build a fence. A big fence. The biggest fence. Yuge.
Rebuttal by Haley Kennington
Click to read Haley's article and Jeremiah's rebuttal
In approaching my rebuttal to Jeremiah’s “US Border Walls: A Solution In Search of A Problem,” I noticed that there is +1,000 words dedicated to quotes. Within these citations he upholds Fake News CNN, neocon activist Ann Coulter, and the Koch brothers-funded think tank, the Cato Institute (who interestingly advocate for the lifting legal restrictions on child labor), all of which are a less than impressive sourcing of information to back an anti-border wall stance. More than half of Mr. Harding’s piece is made up of other people’s thoughts that are paired with outdated stats and polls. So it becomes quite difficult to address at all because I’m responding to quotes from openly partisan entities like the ACLU, Washington Post, and random YouTube videos.
Since Jeremiah is only able to speak in terms of quotes and citations, I will provide some numbers from the Department of Homeland Security in regards to crime associated with illegal immigrants taken into custody over recent years:
“A total of 57,820 known or suspected aliens were in DOJ custody at the end of FY 2018 Q1, including 38,132 persons in BOP custody and 19,688 in USMS custody. Of this total, 42,284 people had been confirmed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to be aliens (i.e., non-citizens and non-nationals), while 15,536 aliens were still under investigation by ICE to determine alienage and/or removability. Among the 42,284 confirmed aliens, 39,413 people (93 percent) were unlawfully present. These numbers include a 62 percent unlawful rate among 38,132 known or suspected aliens in BOP custody and a 78 percent unlawful rate among 19,688 confirmed aliens in USMS custody. Approximately 16,233 aliens in USMS custody required housing in state, local, and private facilities, which cost $1,458,372.72 a day. This report does not include data on the alien populations in state prisons and local jails because state and local facilities do not routinely provide DHS or DOJ with comprehensive information about their inmates and detainees—which account for approximately 90 percent of the total U.S. incarcerated population.
As reported by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), 251,000 criminal aliens have been booked into local Texas jails between June 1, 2011 and April 30, 2018, according to DHS status indicators.These criminal aliens were charged with:
More than 663,000 criminal offenses;
7,156 sexual assaults;
9,938 weapons charges;
79,900 drug charges;
Regarding opinions Jeremiah did express in his piece, I can safely conclude that he believes illegal immigrants are all peaceful, hardworking individuals with drive, ambition, and a desire to contribute to society. Additionally, he thinks that ending the war on drugs (which I agree needs to be scrapped ), would somehow stop the flow of illegal drugs entering our country from Mexico. How that would work exactly? I cannot begin to tell you and Mr. Harding did not back the statement up with any ideas on how that would be achieved either. He notes that “There is no Mexican gang problem, crime isn't a factor.” On this front I have to assume that he is encouraging a head buried in sand approach that brings willful ignorance. To negate the immense amount of drugs entering our country, and criminal activity spilling over the border, is more than turning a blind eye, it’s irresponsible, it’s reckless and, for those directly affected, DANGEROUS.
“That’s not how any of this works.” Jeremiah adds.
To wish something were true and it actually be true are two entirely different things. If we could will our way into making changes, world peace would have been achieved long ago, brownies would only be 10 calories each, and money would grow on trees. Much like the idea that there are more than two genders, thinking something is true does not make it so. I wish a lot of things weren’t the way that they actually are, but alas, I am willing to accept reality and look into solutions rather than live in a fantasy within my own thoughts and emotions (while demanding others respect my alternative way of perceiving reality when it doesn’t live up to idealist expectations).
Jeremiah chose to ignore large segments of the immigration issue while simultaneously blurring the lines between illegal and legal immigrants, and also between migrants and refugees. Ignoring the fact that most illegal immigrants aren’t refugees fleeing their countries in search of protection, but rather because they can’t or simply choose not to enter the country legally (for a number of reasons - all of which are a matter of inconvenience, not necessity, is less than respectable).
America was built on hard working legalized citizens who wanted to advance not only themselves, but the workforce, and the country as a whole. We are a forgiving nation, and a land of opportunity, but this is not the pull that illegal immigrants are persuaded by. America is a country where if one is driven and seeks to both improve and apply their skill set, they can and will be successful. Enter LEGALLY, work hard, pay taxes and chase the “American Dream”. These are not difficult concepts, they just require drive and ambition. Thousands of immigrants do it the RIGHT way every single week. Don’t continue to blur the line between legal and illegal immigrants, the difference is paramount and vital to the argument that seems to have eluded my anarchist friend.
Calling those who oppose your views “xenophobes” rather than providing support for your statements isn’t noble. It’s quite dismissive and a convenient way of saying “I don’t know”. If anything, it proves the opposite is true.
I’ll leave Mr. Harding with these last words: Illegal immigration is only beneficial to “Big Business” and Donald J. Trump is STILL your President (and he has many more goals involving the border to fulfill in his second term).