Barriers To A Barrier Wall

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Joe Alton Contributor
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Making good on one of his major campaign promises, President Donald Trump signed an executive action on Jan. 25th to plan for the construction of a border wall between the United States and Mexico.

Immigration reform has long been one of Mr. Trump’s signature issues, and The Wall is the symbol of many American’s concerns about our porous southern border. Everyone wants security, and the presence of a substantial physical barrier is bound to deter some of the hundreds of thousands that seek to gain entry illegally.

There are barriers, however, to building such a barrier.

The first, which I discussed in a recent Daily Caller article, is Donald Trump’s repeated insistence that Mexico will pay for the construction of The Wall. Mexican President Nieto has already commented to the effect that he will not agree to anything that degrades his nation’s dignity. Nieto subsequently cancelled a planned meeting with President Trump in response to the executive action.

There are, by the way, funds to start The Wall. About 100 million dollars remain from the 2006 Secure Fence Act, a measure supported by, surprise, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama when they were senators. It’s not much, though, when you realize the bill for construction will reach 8 to 15 billion. But 8 to 15 billion dollars isn’t much when you consider the economic cost of illegal immigration. In 2011, it was estimated to be about 113 billion.

If something is important, it’s worth an investment, even if it’s your money and not your neighbor’s. One answer being floated is a “border adjustment tax,” known to some as a “value-added tax”. This plan taxes all imports to America, regardless of where they come from. Exports to other countries are free of U.S. tax. The system works best for countries with trade deficits (ours totaled more than 500 billion dollars in 2015, 60 billion of which was with Mexico).

As 160 countries currently use this program, it would be hard to begrudge the U.S. considering it. Also, the border adjustment tax applies to all nations and wouldn’t unfairly single out Mexico. Depending on the amount of the tax, it might generate enough revenue to not only pay for a wall, but over time, much more. Of course, other nations would retaliate by increasing their import taxes, leading to higher prices on goods and, some say, a loss of American jobs.

The second barrier to a barrier wall comes, not from Mexico, but from United States citizens whose property will be in the way of construction. Although some have concerns about illegal immigration, it’s likely that more will balk at the idea of having their land bisected by an impenetrable barrier. Some in the area may have relatives just across the border. Others, far away from the border, may object on purely political grounds: They don’t like Trump and will do anything to frustrate his efforts.

Speaking of not liking Trump, there’s California, a nice chunk of the U.S. – Mexico border. The state legislature hired former Obama attorney general Eric Holder to “…uphold the values of the people…” against the new administration. I’ll bet dollars to donuts that a line of anti-Trumpers will have sit-ins along the line of a proposed wall, and there’s enough of them to reach from Arizona to the Pacific Ocean. Ditto for New Mexico, another state that voted Democrat in the recent election.

Don’t forget a third issue: “Environmental Impact.” Greenies across the country will unchain themselves from oak trees up north to demonstrate against The Wall’s effect on the almost-endangered Arizona spotted sand lizard or the rarely seen California Kangaroo.

The end result of all the above? An angry Mexico and hundreds of domestic protests and lawsuits intended to stop or slow the completion of a barrier on our southern border.

Would The Wall really serve as a barrier to illegal immigration and drug cartels? As they say, “if there’s a will, there’s a way.” Tunnels can be built under fences and walls. Immigrant smuggling might increase in our port cities. Drug cartels adapt to use planes to drop drugs over the border.

Yet, 70 countries have some sort of physical barrier on their borders (up from 15 in 1989), so there must be some deterrent effect. More border agents, as promised by President Trump, will improve security, as will sensors, unarmed drones, and other high technology to detect illegal activities. And here’s a novel idea: Enforce the law, something we haven’t done recently.

The border, well, it’s complicated. There are people trying to enter the U.S. for various reasons. Those that arrive looking for a better life should be treated humanely, but we can’t admit everybody. Our resources aren’t limitless; we need a way to control the number of immigrants.

We should realize that The Wall may serve as a deterrent. Building it is worth a shot, but it’s not a panacea. It’s just one component of the immigration reform needed to secure our borders.