By John F. Di Leo
January 9, 2019 A.D.
With some share of non-essential government services in shutdown mode (at this writing), the nation is talking about the southern border – specifically, about the President’s small funding request for a proper wall along the southern border, which has been promised, again and again, by leaders of both parties, for decades… but which is, amazingly, still not completely in place.
That’s not to say there’s no wall at all; there are stretches where there’s a wall, or an imposing fence anyway, like in San Diego, but most of our border with Mexico is completely open, requiring constant monitoring by federal law enforcement – a type of monitoring that can never really be remotely sufficient.
Let’s ask ourselves, for a moment, what such a wall would do, if it were built. If it were, in fact, deep enough to prevent easily tunneling under it… and high enough and sturdy enough to prevent easily passing through it or over it… what would it accomplish?
For political reasons, the Left tells us that such a wall is solely intended to reduce the flow of illegal aliens, whom they prefer to euphemistically call “undocumented immigrants.” The Left tells us that if we’d just change our immigration policy, the problem would go away, so the Left opposes both the wall and the very concept of limiting immigration.
Opponents of the wall propose that we become virtually the only country on earth with totally open borders, that we welcome unlimited immigration from anywhere, in any numbers, whether there are jobs for them or not, whether we can afford the costs they would bring or not. No other country on earth does this, but they propose it for us. Why?
The debate has focused on the problem of illegal aliens, and understandably so, because the flow of illegals over the past fifty years has indeed been a growing challenge for the country (and a particular insult to all the honorable immigrants and immigrants-to-be, who have waited patiently for years, all over the world, to do it right).
But let’s also think of everything else that happens along that border, which a proper wall could help with. It’s really not just about illegal aliens, after all.
Untold billions of dollars worth of illegal drugs are smuggled into the United States along that border every year. A variety of government agents – from Customs and Border Protection to the Drug Enforcement Agency to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, not to mention state and local law enforcement too – deal with these weapons of mass destruction (yes, that is what they are!) every hour of every day.
Customs agents find drugs hidden in the false floors of trucks, the stuffed tires of cars, the false bottoms of suitcases. DEA agents find drugs in the actual bodies of travelers or immigrants, in the most dangerous and horrifying ways. FBI cases reveal whole networks of people engaged entirely in the pursuit of moving this valuable but fatal commodity across the border to infect our public. And the more time they must spend on avoidable problems, the less time these agents have on the ones they can’t avoid.
But it isn’t only drugs that get smuggled across the border, either.
Illegally-made copies of commercial products – fake name-branded footwear and clothing, toys and games – illegal knockoffs – are imported all the time, by people who don’t want the cost or trouble of negotiating with sports teams or movie studios for the proper licensing rights, for logos and other intellectual property. Customs works to catch these affronts as well, to protect American consumers from being taken, and to protect our American industries and creators, from Hollywood to New York, and their copyrights, patents, and trademarks.
People, too, can and do get smuggled across the border, every day. All these illegal border crossings aren’t voluntary, you know.
If you think that prostitution is a victimless crime, committed only by willing participants in the sex trade who made a conscious career choice, you’ve been conned. Many of America’s prostitutes are the victims of child trafficking, often kidnapped or conned runaways, the poor or the drug-addicted from foreign countries, who are moved from country to country, wherever there’s a clientele. Tragically, America’s 330-some million population provides that clientele, and where there’s a demand, a supply will develop to meet it.
And what of the illegal immigrants who aren’t just the economic drain on the economy that make the news – the nonworking people who move here for our welfare benefits, or the willing workers who move here to drive down wages and take jobs that Americans would otherwise get?
What of the really bad ones, the immigrants who wouldn’t be admitted under ANY potential immigration reform laws – the ones who carry communicable diseases, and the ones who are known criminals, like the robbers, rapists, killers, drug dealers, and gang recruiters who populate organized crime gangs like MS-13?
American law enforcement is always working – 24/7 – to manage all these dangers.
Customs and the DEA work on it at our largely open borders, as well as at every physical point of entry, from seaports to airports, both on the nation’s periphery and in the interior. And yes, all our other forms of law enforcement, from local police to state troopers, along with so many federal agencies, are engaged in all of these battles every day, trying to curtail the flow of both illegal physical goods and dangerous criminals.
When we think of the wall, we must think beyond just the immigration question, and consider all these issues.
In viewing the big picture… doesn’t a wall just make sense?
Taking the emotion out of it, just looking at this 2000-mile border objectively… if we have this massive inbound traffic of undesirable people and things, mixed in with the desirable people and things (tons of legitimate personal and business traffic, lots of legal immigrants, and an enormous amount of legitimate commerce)… doesn’t it just make sense to ease the challenges on that system by building a good, strong wall?
Look at every other problem we have in America: there are laws against rape, robbery, embezzlement, and murder. These laws doesn’t stop them from happening completely, but they dissuade some, and the criminal justice system we have in place – police, courts, jails, and occasionally executions – deals with much of it. We don’t expect our criminal justice system to be able to wipe out crime entirely, but we try to enable our criminal justice system to reduce it as much as possible. We give them tools, like police cars and weapons, computers and courtrooms and long sentences, to keep the known criminals off the street so the police have fewer new crimes to address.
In the same way, we would not expect a wall on the southern border to immediately end all illegal immigration, or all drug importation, or all the infestations of foreign organized crime… some of these will still get through, even if there’s a wall.
But not nearly as much.
We currently spend a mint on border agents of all kinds – their housing, their equipment, their vehicles (and sadly, their healthcare and funerals – it’s a very dangerous job). We spend a mint in the interior, dealing with the results of problems that could have been prevented if they had never made it across the border in the first place.
And we spend a mint, all over the country, especially in our major metropolitan areas where “sanctuary city” status has become a magnet for economically and culturally crippling ghettos of illegal aliens and gangland violence.
All these costs – both in money and in human resources – would be eased by a good, strong wall at the border.
The minimal cost of the building of the wall itself – measured in the billions, certainly, but tiny from the perspective of our massive federal budget – pales in comparison to the financial savings we’d have in these other areas.
This issue is really about using federal, state, and local resources wisely, sensibly, prudently. It’s about tackling a potential problem before it does its damage.
A strong wall will turn most (not all, but most) of those tuberculosis and typhoid spreaders back. It will turn most (not all, but most) of those drug dealers and copyright pirates back. Our struggling cities and states – Los Angeles, Chicago, New York – so many bankrupt metropolises, unable to fund their teachers or their policemen – would benefit as the need for so much of their spending would be reduced.
We would still have border agents, of course – working at the major crossings, inspecting cars and trucks and travelers – but we wouldn’t need as many in between, risking their lives in the wilderness. Once built, the wall will handle much of what takes human activity today, and much more efficiently.
The wall doesn’t solve every problem, but it helps to solve them. Erection of a wall will help to cut our costs, to protect our federal employees, to reduce the tax burden on our people and our businesses. The wall will help our bankrupt cities and states to survive, to climb back from the financial hardships that decades of their own foolish policies have caused them.
In the final analysis, there is only one reason to oppose the wall… and that’s if you really don’t want to address any of our problems, at all, after all.
Copyright 2019 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based international trade compliance trainer and writer. His columns appear regularly in Illinois Review.