20 Feb '16     home | more politics

Ballots and the Border

Alongside taxes, the economy, war and foreign policy, opinion on immigration will weigh on voters this year. Donald Trump has had success with the immigration issue, while saying:

When politicians talk about "immigration reform" they mean: amnesty, cheap labor and open borders.

Trump says we have to be tough-minded, and he says that after elected president he will build a wall in order to control the US-Mexico border (a wall with gates). This past week Pope Francis responded:

A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.

Despite his respect for the Pope Francis, Trump took the sentiment as inapplicable to the countervailing need for a secure border. Trump stayed with his view of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton as insufficiently tough-minded.

On the other hand, Sanders says he supports a "roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million aspiring Americans living in this country." And Hillary Clinton says,

We need comprehensive immigration reform with a path to full and equal citizenship. If Congress won't act, I'll defend President Obama's executive actions—and I'll go even further to keep families together. I'll end family detention, close private immigrant detention centers, and help more eligible people become naturalized.

What Trump and others consider softness on the issue of illegal immigration brings to mind Ronald Reagan's regret that he signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. For the first six months after the bill became law there was a modest fall in illegal immigration, but within 12 months illegal immigration was breaking all previous records. (http://www.vdare.com/posts/ed-meese-says-reagan-regretted-1986-amnesty)

Trump see's his wall as permanent control, but many think otherwise. Some conservative pundits, David Brooks among them, have been describing the wall as "unworkable." Brooks writes:

Trump plays up the threat of terrorism. But the real threat is that our border agencies spend so much time tracking down people who want to be gardeners that they don’t have the resources to track down the people who want to be suicide bombers. Fighting terrorism by going after the whole swath of immigration policy is like fighting germs with a sledgehammer.

Mexico's former president, Felipe Calderon, says the wall is "going to be completely useless" and does not need building. People talk of the wall being circumvented, that people could go around it by sea – as they have been off the coast of San Diego. There is talk of more tunnels (almost seventy having been discovered since 2008, some more than a half-mile long, with rail tracks and elevators). There could be trucks with ramps and ladders, allowing allow easy passage. And today there are wall climbers who have hand-held devices for vertical climbing. Moreover, a part of the migration problem is people overstaying their visas.

In places, people having been using the border fence as a volleyball net. Trump's wall would stop that, but perhaps a wall of verticalized cement slabs ten or twelve feet high costing billions and billions of dollars and needing billions in repair would not eliminate the absurdity.

Under the Obama administration, border security has been addressed by agencies such as the Border Patrol and also by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – the latter part of the Department of Homeland Security. In 2012, the apprehending of immigration violators, criminal and non-criminal, reached a high of 409,849, and it declined steadily to 235,413 in 2015. If Trump wants to spend more money on border security, perhaps more personnel could be hired and more advance incidental equipment purchased.

Related to the issue of incentives, David Brooks writes:

The number of illegal immigrants flowing into this country is dropping, not rising. The flow of total immigrants peaked in 2005 and has been dropping since. The share of immigrants coming from Latin America is falling sharply. Since 2008, more immigrants have come from Asia than Latin America, and the disparity is growing. There are more Mexicans leaving the United States than coming in. According to the Pew Research Center, there was a net outflow of 140,000 from 2009 to 2014.

President Reagan's aforementioned Immigration Reform Law of 1986 included a penalty for employers found guilty of employing 10 or more workers whom they know to be illegal could face up to five years in prison. If Trump wants more toughness he could support improvement of the law. Use of the Department of Homeland Security's E-Verify system could also be increased. According to the DHS website, more than 482,692 employers now use E-Verify. There is also talk of fraud‐resistant, tamper‐resistant Social Security cards.

We have people who hate the idea of identity verification – despite our doing it often for banking, or voting, using our drivers licenses. We need to recognize the slippery slope argument as false: choices always involve drawing lines and holding against extremes.

Being tougher on people who hire illegals would burden whomever might be supporting illegals economically. With an eye toward preventing future illegal hiring but a softness regarding those who have been serving their employers well, the intensified hiring restrictions date back to a recent date.

Adding incentive (self-deportation) to the issue of illegal immigration is a recommendation that stands in place of government agents crawling around school yards looking for illegals, raiding homes and rounding up millions for shipment to the border. But the incentive approach stated as policy by Mr Trump, in place of his wall, is not likely to happen.

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