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The Absolute Stupidity of Trying to Seal the Border with Mexico

The next time some politician says that we have to “seal the border” with Mexico before we can do anything about immigration reform, you should realize that this is an absolute lie. It is simply not practical to seal a border that is 2000 miles long.

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32 Comments

  1. rk wrote:

    That’s easier than getting through an airport!

    Monday, January 3, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Permalink
  2. PatriotSGT wrote:

    IK on your assertion that (we have to “seal the border” is an absolute lie), I would say it is their opinion not a truth or falsehood. I’d also say it is “your opinion” that the idea is stupid. For those who favor sealing the border, as their opinion, they believe not all has been done to that end that could be and so the border remains open. Regardless of your own opinion that it cannot be done either because you don’t know how, think it too costly, or just refuse to consider the possibility because of your political beliefs, it can be completely to mostly sealed. I have been there and worked there and it can be done. I have seen it work.

    I believe we must as a nation secure our borders to both deny entry to those who seek to do us harm and allow those who have followed our rules and law (sometimes waiting years to immigrate) do so. Those who disregard our laws should be deterred not rewarded. If we as a nation wish to remove all our borders and allow anyone to come and go as they please then we should have that discussion, along with the rules and potential consequences.

    For those who say, before we can secure the border we must have reform and amnesty, I’d say that is an absolute lie.

    There are no must(s) on either side of the question.

    Monday, January 3, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Permalink
  3. Iron Knee wrote:

    No nation has ever been able to seal their borders. The Berlin wall did not “seal” that border, and it was far shorter than 2000 miles. The entire US army has failed to “seal” a relatively short border between North and South Vietnam.

    PatriotSgt, where did you see sealing a border work? I would love to be proved wrong.

    But the reason I said it is an absolute lie is that (I believe) that the politicians who say that the border must be sealed first know that it will not happen, they are just using that as an excuse. In other words, they are lying.

    Monday, January 3, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Permalink
  4. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    Build a wall and they’ll bring ladders and shovels. Build a taller or deeper wall, and they’ll bring taller ladders or dig deeper holes. Heck, maybe they’ll bring in wrecking balls, dynamite, or plasma torches and walk right through the middle.

    Plus, 2000 miles is a bit short of the actual value. It’s closer to 8000 miles. That is, of course, including the Alaska-Canada border.

    Is it possible to “completely to mostly” seal the border with a wall? Sure. In the same way it would be possible to dig a swimming pool using an unending supply of toothpicks.

    This is not a real-world solution to the problem. It is a complete waste of time and money that would only succeed in lining the CEO pockets of newly formed wall-building companies, using money from government coffers controlled by morons. In other words, it comes as no surprise to me that many Republicans are for the idea.

    Wall-building company lobbyists: coming to an America near you in 2011.

    Monday, January 3, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Permalink
  5. Iron Knee wrote:

    Thanks 1032, you said it better than I could.

    As for 2000 miles, I was only talking about the US/Mexican border. If you include the US/Canadian border (including Alaska/Canada) it is WAY longer.

    Monday, January 3, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Permalink
  6. Sammy wrote:

    You are all forgetting the thousands of miles of coastline east and west.

    Monday, January 3, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Permalink
  7. Jason Ray wrote:

    Well said, all. The key point of agreement is that both wings (left and right) would agree that we do not want to spend taxpayer money on illegal immigrants, and that we want to control immigration as much as possible. I think just about everyone would agree on that :-)

    The problem with getting solutions, however, is that we have to deal with all the illegal immigrants who are already here, and we have to deal with the role they play in the US economy especially in the agriculture industry. Building a wall across the border will not address either of those. In fact most anti-immigrant moves (including Arizona’s) don’t address them either.

    We also have to accept some health care cost to protect ourselves, whether we care about the immigrants or not. One of the most likely large-scale pandemic scenarios is an outbreak of pneumonic plague (that’s the rare but highly infectious and air-transmitted version of bubonic plague) in the illegal immigrant population (or the uninsured populaiton, for that matter) spreading to the rest of the country.

    I believe that until there is some agreement on a set of actions that will address the economic implications as well as the humanitarian and wasteful spending ones, everyone that claims to be pushing immigration “reform” is just pandering to their respective constituants and that nothing of real value will get done.

    Monday, January 3, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Permalink
  8. Iron Knee wrote:

    Jason, I’m not sure if I get your point. Were you being sarcastic?

    Monday, January 3, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Permalink
  9. PatriotSGT wrote:

    IK and 1032 -I realize no border can be 100% sealed. It’s been a while since the US Army attempted to seal the old DMZ in Vietnam, and that failed because the NVA circumvented by going through Laos and Cambodia. Even the Korean (currently the most heavily guarded border in the world) border cannot be 100% sealed. If we deal in absolutes (seal=100%, ending world hunger= nobody hungry, the human race will one day be extinct= why do anything)then we’re just using the argument on both sides to do nothing.

    We as a nation can do better then allowing 2 million illegal entries through our southern border every year (conservative estimate, based on the theory we catch 10% or around 500,000/yr). Does anyone think 2 million crossing per year is problematic? I do. Can we get that number to none, absolutely not, but we can get it under 1 million and if we really try, down to 500,000 or less per year. Because the minute we seriously start talking about immigration reform or amnesty there will be 20 million people trying to cross the southern border, thats almost a guarantee.

    I agree there are politicians who will hold reform hostage to border security and there are advocates of open borders. I believe a solution lies in the middle. We need to begin discussing/debating real immigration reform while simoultaneously reducing the gapping hole. We can do both and must. One is just as necessary as the other. We can then determine a humane way to deal with those already here.

    Monday, January 3, 2011 at 9:17 pm | Permalink
  10. PatriotSGT wrote:

    Oh by the way 1032 – the National Guard has built all the existing wall (at least in California, using a combination of Guard Counterdrug money and federal Drug Czar money. Guard engineers get real world pratice building vertical (walls) and horizontal (roads) structures and the only real cost is the materiel and the transporting of personnel. It can be kept that way as its great training for them, lower cost to the Gov and seeing uniforms on our side is also a deterrent. Triple win.

    Monday, January 3, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Permalink
  11. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    Money is money is money my friend. No way around it. “The average cost of pedestrian fence, which is designed to prevent the passage of people, across all of the nation’s sectors is $6.5 million per mile — including all planning, material and construction costs with the exception of costs associated with adverse condemnation. That totals to about $748 million in Texas alone.” Consider also that California only makes up 7% of the entire border. If you had a link to an article about the national guard building the wall in California and the money they are using, I’d like to read it. I can’t find any info from google.

    Illegal immigration is a problem. Physically closing the border is not a solution to that problem. You accuse us of committing the nirvana fallacy, but that is not the case. I am not against the border fence because it isn’t a perfect solution, I am against the border fence because it is not a solution to any problem I’m aware of. We might as well be putting up “KEEP OUT” signs every 20 yards.

    FYI, for the signs every 20 yards to cost as much money as the fence, each sign would have to cost $73,863.64. :)

    Monday, January 3, 2011 at 10:04 pm | Permalink
  12. jonah wrote:

    There are two simpler, better ways than building an expensive to prevent illegal immigrants from coming here.

    1) Penalize heavily the people who hire illegal immigrants and the people who forge identification documents.
    2) Expand the work visa program to make it easier to get lower skill jobs.

    Work visa’s will provide tax revenue. A wall will not.

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 2:05 am | Permalink
  13. starluna wrote:

    Why is illegal immigration a problem? What exactly is the problem?

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 8:14 am | Permalink
  14. Jeff wrote:

    Here’s a solution to the immigration problem: create a program similar to the Jamaican worker program.

    In my area, we have about 300+ Jamaicans come in for the growing and harvest season (approximately August-December). The average desertion rate for this program is 0% because all the money they make is taxed as U.S. income and then sent directly to their families back home. They keep nothing for themselves, but their lodging and food is provided by their employer, which receives subsidies to offset the cost. The workers get paid minimum wage, the farmers make money because they don’t have to hire employees that require a 401K or other benefits, and the price of products is lowered because of the lowered costs of production.

    We need to get all the illegals currently in the country out (admittedly not an easy task), but then set up programs that allow them to come in and work in a way that benefits everyone.

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 8:33 am | Permalink
  15. PatriotSGT wrote:

    What point are you thinking Starluna or are we feeling philosophical today? :)

    Jeff and Jonah – You’re correct we need to have a guest worker program and one that can lead to citizenship for deserving peoples. Bush tried, but was shot down by his own party, the dems never got fully behind it though, they were kind of stuck on all or nothing thinking at the time.

    1032 – links below
    http://www.pe.com/localnews/inland/stories/PE_News_Local_S_borderwrap14.3ed3d12.html

    Ironicly here is an excert from 2006 and then Govs Napolitano, Swchar., and Richarson,on securing the border, and how the guard helped.
    “But border-state governors, including Arizona’s Janet Napolitano, think the National Guard should remain at least until additional goals are met. She, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson have urged the federal government to extend the mission beyond next month, to no avail.”

    http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2008/06/12/20080612jumpstart0612.html?wired

    In the article it talks about how succesful the Guard/Border patrol partnership was and dramatically decreased crossings in program areas.

    Before Jumpstart there was another program and it was run under countrdrug auspices and money, they built miles of fence, maintained roads, provided free medical clinics to indiginous peoples and provided self support to out of state units. I took 2 different Battalion Taskforces there to conduct those missions in 2 different years.

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 10:04 am | Permalink
  16. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    The articles say that it decreased crossings in the areas where the guard was stationed/working. That is not surprising. If we put tanks and landmines on a 3 mile section of the border, we would no doubt see a dramatic decrease of people crossing that 3 mile section.

    But the question is, what does it do overall? The answer is nothing. At what point in the past 4, 6, 8, etc. years has illegal immigration on the whole markedly dropped due to these programs? It hasn’t because the people will simply cross where the huge men in camouflage gear are not.

    Neither of the links talks about the money being obtained in any special way. I also noticed this: “Completed: Five miles of primary and secondary fencing.” 5 miles of fencing, only 1995 to go…

    In your first link, look at the fence that is behind the man in the picture. Do you think you could cross that fence? If I had your family behind that fence and you wanted to get to them, would it prove impossible? Could you never get over, under, or through it? I can’t speak for you, but I am absolutely sure I could. The only way you could stop me would be to have an armed guard watching me. And then the fence becomes irrelevant.

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 10:42 am | Permalink
  17. Iron Knee wrote:

    Starluna, the “problem” is that some people need someone to blame for their problems, and aliens — especially illegal ones — have a long tradition of being a convenient scapegoat. Can’t find a job? Blame it on all those illegal aliens that are taking my job. But don’t blame it on employers who hire illegal aliens!

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 11:03 am | Permalink
  18. starluna wrote:

    The basis of the question is not so much philosophical as practical. Before I can take seriously any proposed solution to “the problem,” you need to define more explicitly what the problem is.

    Most policy analysts and researchers define a problem as a condition or situation in which some negative consequence is the direct result. So, in order to really call illegal immigration a problem, you have to define what is the situation and what are the negative consequences that are a direct result of that situation. So far, I have not hear anyone actually explicate the problem or provide any evidence to support the claim.

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Permalink
  19. starluna wrote:

    However, if you want to get philosophical, I would hazard a guess that many of us approach this issue from different ontological (what is the nature of reality – objective, subjective, or a little bit of both), epistemological (what is knowable or worth knowing), and axiological (which values matter) perspectives.

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Permalink
  20. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    One problem is that what would be normal situations for legal citizens become severe due to the threat of deportation.

    So, for instance, when involved in traffic accidents whether large or small, there is a greater incentive to flee the scene of the accident.

    I’m not saying that all illegal immigrants will hit and run, nor do I believe that no American citizens will hit and run. I’m just saying that it changes the situation. If I am unfortunate enough to be involved in a severe traffic, I would prefer it be by a legal citizen who I feel is more likely to render aid than an illegal alien.

    I think the solution to the problem is punishing those who employ illegals while opening up a sane path to citizenship and/or work VISAs.

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Permalink
  21. jonah wrote:

    Regarding the question posed by starluna as to what problems illegal immigration causes, IMO while the problems are probably not as harmful as they are made out to be, these immigrants are entering the country ILLEGALLY and that is the problem. It would make a lot more sense to make sure that all immigrants who come here to work are at least documented so that these workers can go about their lives in the US as normal people do and get their drivers license etc the proper way. While the illegal nature of the immigrants helps the economy in certain ways, perhaps it may be possible to continue to employ immigrants in certain types of jobs that Americans would not choose while providing incentives to their employers. So a portion of tax revenues from LEGAL workers who file their taxes could perhaps be used as incentives.

    If illegal immigrants looking for work are given an incentive to come to the US legally then it would be easier to secure the border from the bad guys without an expensive wall.

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Permalink
  22. Bert wrote:

    How much do these illegals cost us, really? Is it more than the cost of the wall and manning it?

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Permalink
  23. PatriotSGT wrote:

    Bert – good question, I don’t know the answer.

    Jonah – I agree, the problem in my mind is less about the people then the process. We have to as a nation know who enters our country, anything less is foolish IMO.

    For those in favor of punishing employers, those laws have been on the books for eons, but they are not enforced. It’s sort of like the old cry about cutting waste, fraud and abuse to trim the budget, sounds good, but nobody ever follows through.

    1032 – I agree it’s a tough problem on the border. We can’t stop it all, but we can stop alot. Hoping washington enforces current laws is useless in my opinion, they won’t because they don’t want to lose votes.

    IK -I’m not blaming anybody for anything and neither are many others like me. There are idiots who blame, but they are the minority IMO.

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Permalink
  24. Jason Ray wrote:

    IK – I was not being sarcastic. The key point is that illegal immigrants are currently performing critical services for multiple industries, especially agriculture, and that until the implications that are addressed nothing is going to happen.

    Starluna, you asked for a problem definition, here’s one way to frame it:

    People living in the United States illegally are draining taxpayer dollars from services that should only be available to legal citizens, and creating a series of hazards (health, as I mentioned, crime, etc.) that negatively impact legal citizens. Based on these costs and risks, the US should expend effort to minimize or eliminate illegal immigration.

    The flip side, however, is that illegal immigrants also contribute to the economy. They keep prices of many goods and services lower (especially agriculture) and they spend money (rent, food, etc.) which benefits the economy by increasing demand.

    So people come here illegally because they can make more money and have better lives here, even as illegals, than they can in Mexico.

    So to solve the “problem” either the situation in Mexico needs to improve to the point there is no advantage to come here, or the economic equation here needs to be balanced in some other way than using illegal labor and benefiting from illegal spending.

    Everything else, from border fences to amnesty programs, is missing the point because as long as the economic drivers exist, people (on both sides) will FIND a way to keep bringing people in illegally.

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Permalink
  25. starluna wrote:

    There are quite a few unsupported assumptions and claims here.

    The “problem” of use of public services (whether it be schools or roadways) involves two assumptions: 1) undocumented immigrants do not pay taxes, and 2) public services are “only intended” for US citizens. Neither of these assumptions is supported by evidence. The preponderance of economic research has found that, on balance, undocumented immigrants pay either slightly less or as much in taxes as documented immigrants and US citizens. Like other residents, the undocumented pay sales taxes, local excise taxes, and property taxes, which comprise the bulk of taxes we pay. Undocumented immigrants very often pay their state and federal income taxes as well. Moreover, a significant proportion of undocumented workers pay into Social Security (~$12 billion a year according to the Social Security Administration) and will never receive a penny of benefits from it.

    With regards to the second assumption, with the exception of social welfare benefits specified in PROWRA (1996 welfare reform act), the federal courts have consistently found that public accommodation and public services cannot be denied on the basis of real or perceived civil status. The Supreme Court, even with its current rightward leanings has refused to take up cases that continue to try to challenge the right to K-12 education, right to walk in public, right to emergency medical care, etc. by those who want to restrict access only to US citizens. There is nothing in our political or legal history that supports the idea that all public services are “intended” for US citizens only. Moreover, this is more of a claim about values (who deserves access to the ER) than it is a description of problematic situation.

    With regards to the negative consequences of crime, health, etc, this too has been shown to be empirically unsupported. Every analysis of crime trends finds that immigrant neighborhoods, where you are most likely to find a concentration of undocumented immigrants, are the safest neighborhoods to live in. They have the lowest rate of crime and, in the few studies that I’ve heard presented at conferences where there was an active effort on the part of the local police to work with the immigrant community, the highest levels of cooperation when compared to neighborhoods comprised mainly of native US born residents of similar socio-economic status. Immigrants are also the least likely to commit crimes, as measured by the proportion of the prison population that are immigrants. This is astounding considering the well-recognized racial biases in the criminal justice system, which should tell you something about the criminal propensity of immigrants, undocumented or not.

    With regards to health, immigrants of all types, including the undocumented, are by far healthier than the average US born American. They use fewer medical services (this is also true in states which extend Medicaid coverage to undocumented immigrants), have healthier diets, give birth to healthier babies, and generally live longer. The caveat to this is that the longer they live in the US and the less connected they are to their home countries, the more likely they are to adopt the unhealthy US lifestyle and whatever protective health effect their immigration status afforded them.

    In regards to the risk posed by certain infectious diseases, any review of the CDC reports on this will show that the majority of infectious diseases found here in the US that are originate in less developed countries were found among US citizens who had traveled to said countries and came back infected and infected others. Children of US born parents are also more likely to contract vaccine preventable diseases than immigrant children (documented or not) because of the (equally unsupported) fears US parents have about vaccine safety.

    Finally, the problem that illegal immigration is that it is illegal is not a description of a problem but a values claim that elevates law to morality. As I’ve said before, law is a social construction. We make law and we can change law. The entire idea of needing permission to enter the country is a relatively new one, coming into being in 1924 (with the exceptions of Asians, who had long been barred from entering the US). Under the argument that illegal immigration is illegal and therefore bad, all that is needed is to change the law to remove the illegality. It would therefore not be problematic within this value system. It would not, however, change the potential problems which may arise with having a marginalized immigrant population.

    This is one of the reasons I want to hear what exactly people think “the problem” is. There are a lot of misconceptions about immigrants and the consequences of having immigrants, living near immigrants, their contribution and role in society, etc.

    More importantly, many assertions of the problem are not descriptions of a condition with negative consequences, but claims about values, which is a wholly different thing. If you want to say that no one should ever be allowed to enter the US because only US citizens deserve to live and work here, you should own up to it.

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 9:30 pm | Permalink
  26. starluna wrote:

    And apologies for the bad grammar and typos. I had an emergency root canal today and am a little on the loopy side.

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 9:34 pm | Permalink
  27. starluna wrote:

    BTW – the law punishing employers only goes back to the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act(aka the amnesty bill). Prior to IRCA, there were no penalties to employers for hiring undocumented workers.

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 9:37 pm | Permalink
  28. Iron Knee wrote:

    Starluna, thanks for the information. I remembered reading somewhere that the idea that illegal immigrants are a drain was a myth, but I couldn’t find it. If they are employed then they have both normal income taxes and FICA taken out of their pay, and assuming that their employers actually then pay that money to the government, they are paying all the same taxes that you and I pay, including property taxes, sales taxes, etc. But they cannot collect social security, nor do they file income tax returns, so they don’t get any refunds due.

    The only “problem” mentioned by anyone is PatriotSgt, who said that we need to know who is entering our country. That’s his opinion. I can’t argue with it, but I can disagree with it. To me, it would be like Oregon saying that it needs to keep out those undesirable Californians and building a fence on our border. Oregon would be laughed at. I can’t think of any real reason why the Mexican border is any different other than racism. And besides, how much money are we going to spend and how many rights are we going to give up to know who is entering our country? And as PatriotSgt himself admits, we will never know 100% who is entering the country, so spending so much money on something that we can’t ever succeed is what seems foolish to me.

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Permalink
  29. PatriotSGT wrote:

    As my final thought on this. My position is it’s not about the people, the immigrants illegal or otherwise, it’s about the process. Both sides are using an all or nothing stance and thats just falacious thinking by both sides. We can and must reduce the illegal crossing and we must reform immigration, and both of those are different from deciding what to do with those already hear. So it’s really 3 different issues that people are trying to lump into one. Lets fix them each on their own simultaneously.

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 6:54 am | Permalink
  30. Jason Ray wrote:

    Starluna – thanks for the well researched and comprehensive response.

    I do believe, however, that some of the economic points you raise are not completely accurate.

    While some illegal immigrants do have income taxes and Social Security taxes withheld, as it is illegal to employ illegal immigrants I can tell you from the legal and forensic accounting side, having seen many of these cases, those taxes are NOT withheld if the employer knows the person is an illegal. Also, you can’t withhold taxes unless the e,ployee has a Social Security number, which you can’t get if you are an undocumented alien.

    You said, “Like other residents, the undocumented pay sales taxes, local excise taxes, and property taxes, which comprise the bulk of taxes we pay.” I agree that they do pay these taxes, which is why I mentioned in my own post that this contribution to the economy has to be accounted for to “fix” the illegal immigration problem. I do not have data on how much “local excise taxes” people pay, but most of the taxes I pay are income taxes. There is no sales tax in Oregon (and sales tax is still well below income tax rates in most states) and property taxes are also small in comparison any non-land owning resident.

    The point on public services is well taken, and I did not have the full history of the legal rulings on this. That said, many taxpayer object to having money taken out of their paychecks to pay for an illgeal immigrant’s education and health care.

    The point on crime is also well taken, although I would point out that a “lower crime rate” doesn’t mean zero, and anything above zero is a risk and a cost to lawful citizens. There is also a misleading twist to these statistics – the vast majority illegal immigrants are almost adults. Their children, born in this country, are lawful citizens – but as an ex-reserve police officer, I can tell you that many of those children end up in gangs and committing crimes, so while it is true that the crimes committed by illegals are a small percentage, the impact of illiegal immigraitonon crime is larger than I believe you are suggesting.

    The point on health care is also well taken, but the bottom line is that illegal immigrants (and people without medical insurance) are far less likely to seek out medical care, and that this does present a risk. We can debate how big the risk is, but it is a risk – and like a meltdown in a nuclear powerplant, it’s a risk with a low percentage of occuring but doing potentially catastrophic damage if it does occur.

    And to close, I persoanlly don’t think illegal immigraiton is a problem – I believe, as you have stated, that the net positive economic benefit outweighs all the negative consequences, and that what we should really do is find a way to make illegal immigrants legal. I was trying to give a perspective from the other side, and I think the “problem statement” I laid out is a fairly good depiction of what many conservatives THINK the problems are – and you did a good job of refuting it.

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Permalink
  31. gaetano wrote:

    I think the border wall should be built on the eastern border of california, Then we could keep all the dumb ass people in California the hell out of the U.S. They are nothing but a bunch of drug addicts, anyway. Thats right ,all you big shot Democrat, movie stars.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 8:32 am | Permalink
  32. starluna wrote:

    For those interested, you may find the following interesting:

    http://immigrationimpact.com/2009/11/19/cis-report-attempts-to-erase-100-years-of-research/

    Sunday, January 16, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Permalink