Friday, January 18, 2019

There ought to be a win-win to solve the border wall impasse.

Local conservative radio talk show host Ralph Bristol posted an essay on Facebook yesterday that I think is worth reporting here. He writes:

The game of chicken between President Trump and Democrat leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer raises the political “chicken” bar to heights never experimented with before in U.S. politics -- for one reason, and one reason only.
When the game is over, either President Trump or team Pelosi/Schumer will be able to raise billions of dollars for the next election cycle by claiming victory over the wall.
As a solution to the problems associated with illegal immigration, the wall is fairly inconsequential. As a capital expense (about 10 times what President Trump is asking for this year), it’s barely noticeable.
But, as a political dividing point, it may turn out to be unparalleled in modern history.
Either President Trump will raise billions telling his big rally audiences “I told you I would build a wall. We’re building a wall, and if you give me four more years, we’ll complete it.”
Or, Nancy and Chuck will tell their audiences and donors, “We told you if you returned us to power in Congress, we would stop that wall and everything it stands for -- and we did.”
One of them will have to admit defeat, and neither they nor their bases are prepared to do that – at least not yet. Political donors and the two party bases love victories and hate defeats, no matter how shallow or deceptive the victory and the methods to achieve it.
This game could last a long time.
I agree with Bristol.  A recent article by Jonah Goldberg in National Review says much the same thing and says the current  government-funding impasse is what happens when all involved treat politics like a movie. Goldberg  said the wall is a "MacGuffin" which was a new term to me but which Goldberg explains is a term of art in screenwriting. "It’s the thing the hero wants but the bad guys are trying to get, and therefore it drives the action of the story. In John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon, the Maltese Falcon is the MacGuffin. In Raiders of the Lost Ark it’s the Ark. In Dude, Where’s My Car? it’s the car."

"The border wall isn’t nothing," writes Goldberg, "but in the context of the partisan fight over the shutdown, it might as well be. For those who see Donald Trump as the hero of the story, what really matters is that he triumphs. For those who see him as the villain, what really matters is that he be defeated."

I agree with the point made by both Goldberg and Bristol.  The wall is being blown all out of proportion to the good it will do or, from a liberal point of view, to the damage it will do.  It is just not that significant.  In a follow up comment to his original post, Bristol explains what he meant when he said, “As a solution to the problems associated with illegal immigration, the wall is fairly inconsequential.” Here is what he wrote:
a. It won’t do much to stop illegal trafficking of drugs, since 90 percent of that comes through the ports of entry, hidden in cars and trucks. More is flown into the country in private planes than comes across the open border.

b. It won’t reduce the number of illegal immigrants already here. In fact, if the Democrats ever do agree to a wall, it will include a deal that legalizes at least all of the Dreamers, and probably their family members.

c. It won’t stop the black market in human smuggling, but it will make it more difficult, and therefore more expensive for their customers, and likely even more dangerous and violent.

d. It should reduce the number of people who cross the border illegally, but it’s unclear whether that will have a significant effect on crime. Illegal immigrants commit crimes at about the same rate as the population as a whole. Interestingly, legal immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than the population as a whole.

The most significant impact it will have is to the availability of illegal labor in the future. Those who actually do come here illegally to seek productive minimal employment may be less inclined to take the heightened risk of paying human smugglers. Those who come here for criminal purposes will have to invent new ways to avoid the wall, or make better use of the ways that about 50% of today’s illegal population – by abusing their visas, hiding out and waiting for the next amnesty,

I stand by my argument that the political consequences of who wins the wall fight are much bigger than are the limited strategic consequences.
Again, I think he is right. On his point A, we know very few drugs are carried across the border. They come concealed in vehicles at points of entry, in private planes, private boats, or through tunnels underneath the border.  Supporters of the wall ought to stop using the drug dealer argument.  This is just a fact. The amount of drugs entering the country by people walking across the border is insignificant. If you doubt it, do some research. The facts ought to matter.

Regarding Bristol's point about crime.  I know that when an illegal alien kills someone that is someone who would not have been killed if the illegal alien had been deported or denied illegal entry. I get it.  It is also true, however, that illegal aliens commit crime at about the same rate as American citizens. Some studies show they commit fewer crimes and thus lower the crime rate. Some illegal aliens kill some Americans, but most are not murders. Reducing illegal immigration will have an insignificant impact on the crime rate. We ought to stop "waving the bloody shirt."

I believe we needs some improved or additional border barriers but am not sure that a border wall is the best use of limited resources.  No doubt in some places a border wall would be helpful,  but even Trump has backed down from his campaign promise of building a big beautiful concrete wall from sea to shining sea.  A wall that is not manned will slow down illegal immigrant crossings but will not stop it.

The need for other immigration control and border security measures should be evaluated against border barrier enhancements.  We need more people guarding the border. We need e-verify. If illegal aliens could not find a job when they get here, fewer would make the arduous dangerous journey. We need to prosecute employers who hire illegals. We need more immigration judges so we can quickly adjudicate asylum claims and end search and release. We need to invest in more personnel and technology at points of entry to detect drug shipments. Currently we just do a random sampling searches and most drugs, and some people, enter concealed in vehicles that legally cross the border. We also need to be able to track people who simply overstay a visa.

We also need to recognize that we need some immigration. For one thing, America's fertility rate has been declining for several years. We are not replacing ourselves. Legal immigration can help supply the workers we need to pay into social security and meet the future labor needs of our country.  We also need agricultural workers.  Americans are not going to pick tomatoes in the hot Florida sun for minimum wage.  We need a very liberal guest worker program that does not provide a path to citizenship but allows immigrants to work here.  Many immigrants are not seeking American citizenship they just want a job. We need the labor and immigrants want to supply it.

It seems to me that this current impasse should be solvable. Trump's request is for only $5.7 billion which would only cover about 230 miles of steel fencing. Most people want to legalize the status of the dreamers. A compromise could include amnesty for the dreamers, e-verify and some other immigration controls and maybe half of the amount Trump is asking for a border barrier. Building 115 miles of fencing is half of what Trump is currently asking. Surely there is a need for some additional barrier. Unless Democrats advocate tearing down the hundred of miles of border barrier already in place, they should get off this posturing that walls are immoral.

I understand wanting your team to win, but sometimes we ought to look for a win-win, instead of an I-win-you-lose. Surely, we can find a win-win.

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