Border Wall, Wrong at Any Price

border fence border wall

$5 billion. $31 billion. $1.3 billion. The border wall might just cost more, do less, and get more lies told about it than any wall in history.

Which is the biggest lie?

That the wall will stop unauthorized border crossings? Most unauthorized immigrants never walk across the border. They drive or fly, entering on perfectly legal visas, and then overstay the visas. A wall will do absolutely nothing to stop them.

In any event, unauthorized border crossings are way down, and have been for years, despite DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s overheated rhetoric about a crisis at the border. The crisis is back in Central America, where violence and poverty are pushing families to flee northward. So, yes—more families are coming to the border, but the overall numbers are still down because the number of Mexican immigrants is way, way down.

Another lie: that the wall will stop drug trafficking. In 2015, Coast Guard Rear Admiral Christopher Tomney told BBC that 95 percent of illegal drugs enter the country by boat. A 2018 DEA report confirms that most drugs enter by sea, with some coming by air. Tractor trailer trucks and tunnels are also used, and both are far more efficient and profitable than using individuals to transport drugs.

The oldest lie: that the border wall will be paid for by Mexico. Pretty much everybody knows that is never happening. Even Trump has retreated to saying that some kind of benefits of the new trade agreement will pay for the wall. Of course, the “new” trade agreement, which has not yet been ratified by any country, is not much different from the “old” NAFTA. And economists say that if Mexican businesses have to pay more to send their products to the United States, the ones who will end up paying the bill are U.S. consumers, who will pay higher prices for the goods. The conservative Cato Institute explains that Trump’s “total lack of understanding of basic economic concepts may be contributing to his erroneous belief.”

And now—today’s immigration headlines.

The government shutdown is affecting immigration agents and courts, as well as immigrants and employers. Immigration agents, classified as essential, are working without pay. Immigration judges, mostly classified as nonessential, have been sent home, except for those hearing cases of detained migrants. That means an even longer slowdown for the already overburdened system, and much longer waits for cases to be heard. Oh, and as for employers—the E-Verify system is also down.  

In Alabama, one sheriff is pocketing money allocated to feed migrant detainees.

An Alabama sheriff personally banked $1.5 million in federal funds allocated to feed undocumented immigrants arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, according to an investigation by AL.com.

Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin collected the money over a three-year period beginning in 2011, AL.com reported. The funds were provided as part of a federal contract to use Etowah County Detention Center to hold hundreds of undocumented immigrants who face federal legal proceedings over their immigration status and any alleged crimes.

“In addition, Entrekin also admitted at a news conference in early 2018 that he kept $750,000 in food funds from 2015 to 2017. He purchased a beach house valued at $740,000 soon after, The Birmingham News reported….

Entrekin, who earns close to a $100,000 salary, turned over an additional $1.5 million during that time to Etowah County’s general fund for use on a variety of local needs, reported AL.com.

“A local official confirmed that it’s routine for Entrekin and the county to split any unspent federal funds.”

Oh, well—as long as it’s routine, I suppose that makes it all right.

If you’re looking for something less negative, you might want to read Art Cullen’s editorial in his Storm Lake, Iowa newspaper. Noting the imminent descent of presidential hopefuls on Iowa, Cullen writes:

“Immigration hence will color the Democratic presidential debate that is underway in Iowa. They should approach it as a human rights campaign, because that’s what it has become. People are dying at the border because we are changing the rules. Their hope: that they could land a job scooping manure in Amarillo or throwing turkeys onto a truck in the sleet near Linn Grove. “Those who make it live in constant fear, even if they have legitimate papers.

“There are many people of good will in Washington working on a solution. There cannot be one until this politics of hate is put down, again, as Americans have put it down before. It will get worse before it gets better. This campaign will be among the worst we have seen because the President has determined it is the best way to keep the nation divided.

“It won’t work.”

Read the whole editorial: we need wake-up calls like this.

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About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet, www.tcdailyplanet.net, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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