Friday, July 29, 2016

Damn That Wall is Such a Good Idea

When you think about Donald’s proposal to build a wall along the length of the entire continental border between the U.S. and Mexico – all 1,989 miles (3,201 km) of it – you get this gut feeling that to some extent, that wall has to be a deterrent to undocumented crossers. Yet, the hard numbers, even the nature of those who continue to cross, however, are showing that people crossing the border are not the problem they used to be.
“As the Department of Homeland Security continues to pour money into border security, evidence is emerging that illegal immigration flows have fallen to their lowest level in at least two decades. The nation’s population of illegal immigrants, which more than tripled, to 12.2 million, between 1990 and 2007, has dropped by about 1 million, according to demographers at the Pew Research Center.
“A key — but largely overlooked — sign of these ebbing flows is the changing makeup of the undocumented population. Until recent years, illegal immigrants tended to be young men streaming across the Southern border in pursuit of work. But demographic data show that the typical illegal immigrant now is much more likely someone who is 35 or older and has lived in the United States for a decade or more.” Washington Post, 6/27/15. Not exactly the criminal and rapists the Donald fears.
Today, the biggest problems are illegal U.S.-sourced guns flowing south and illegal cartel drugs moving north. Maybe a wall would be a good thing for both sides, huh? Okay, we know it won’t cost a mere $8 billion, more like three times that amount, but isn’t that worth it? At least it will be job-creating infrastructure construction, right?
Given the resources of the mega-wealthy cartels, experts at sophisticated tunneling, able to fund bribes on both sides of the border, knowledgeable on how to smuggle drugs and guns through seeming legitimate border-crossing vehicles, ships and planes and now mass-producing drug-carrying submarines that can dive increasingly deeper under ocean waves, maybe they’d welcome an excuse to raise drug prices. With so many options, cartels could still flow drugs into the U.S., but the wall might slow down under-financed competitors, possibly creating a wonderful (to them anyway) and hefty increase in prices and hence their profit margins.
You’d think we could ask farmers, ranchers and others who own border property in the United States what they think. And those folks are pretty clearly not made up of those tree-hugging liberals! You know, I think someone just did. The New York Times (July 23rd), for example. The cover page in the NY Times Magazine sections reads: “Migrants and Smugglers Won’t Be Stopped by Trump’s Wall, Ranchers Say. Ranchers near the Mexican border see smugglers and sometimes find bodies, but they favor a different approach to illegal immigration to Donald Trump’s wall…
“If pixie dust sprinkled into the dry earth could make all the eye-crossing obstacles disappear, beginning with the multibillion-dollar cost, would a concrete divide constructed to Donald J. Trump’s aesthetics (‘beautiful,’ with ‘a big beautiful door’) and ever-changing specifications (25 feet high! 35 feet high!! 55 feet high!!!) serve its intended purpose?
“The answer heard time and again from [John Ladd, an Arizona rancher who owns 16,000 border acres] and others along the border is a weary no. ‘The wall?’ says Larry Dietrich, a local rancher. ‘I mean, it’s silly.’
“But what if this beautiful wall — and ‘wall’ is the term used in the Republican Party platform — had a foundation deep enough to discourage tunneling? What if the beautiful concrete panels were designed to thwart climbing over or plowing through? And what if it stretched for hundreds of miles, its beauty interrupted only by rugged, virtually impassable terrain?... ‘It isn’t going to work,’ Mr. Ladd says.
“Ed Ashurst, 65, an outspoken rancher who manages land about 20 miles from the border, is more assertive, but he needs to address something else first. ‘I’ll be straight up with you,’ he says with a scowl. ‘If Hillary Clinton gets elected, I’m moving to Australia.’
“Time will tell whether the Arizona rancher is forced to blend into the Outback, but his assessment of Mr. Trump’s plan is just as succinct. ‘To say you’re going to build a wall from Brownsville to San Diego?’ he says. ‘That is the most idiotic thing I’ve ever heard. And it’s not going to change anything.’” Those conservative landowners do want greater border control. They fear for their own lives as well-armed cartel caravans cross their lands with a “dare me” chip on their shoulders. What do the locals who live with border threats day after day want and what are we currently doing?
“The solution favored among ranchers is infused with a fatalism that nothing will change — government being government, and the cartels always one step ahead — so why bother. But here it goes:
“Intensive, round-the-clock patrols along the border are required for a fence or wall to work; otherwise, those determined to cross will always find a way. But, they argue, if you have boots on the ground, you will have no need for anything so beautiful as the Great Wall of Trump.
“It is easy, from a distance, to dismiss the ranchers along the border as right-wing Chicken Littles whose complaints hint of racism. Too easy, in fact.
“Ranchers will say they saw people with backpacks trekking across their property last week, last night, early this morning. Some will say they have grudging agreements of access with drug cartels, as long as trespassers stay far from their homes. Dogs bark, motion lights flicker, things go missing…
“[The] overall number of migrants has plummeted in the last 15 years or so. Here, in what the Border Patrol categorizes as the Tucson sector — about 90,000 square miles, with 262 miles of border — there were 63,397 arrests in the 2015 fiscal year, compared with 10 times that in the 2001 fiscal year.
“Paul Beeson, the patrol’s chief agent for the Tucson sector, attributes the drop to an increase in officers and tactical equipment, an improvement in the Mexican economy, and the fencing erected along the border about a decade ago.
“But Mr. Ladd and other ranchers say there has been an unsettling swap: fewer migrants, but many more drug traffickers… Mr. Beeson acknowledges the change in demographics, and the challenge in facing an adversary with comparable intelligence and surveillance abilities. ‘They don’t have to move their product today,’ he says of the cartels. ‘They can move it tomorrow. They can sit and watch, and they do that. Watching us. Watching us watching them.’
“But he says the Border Patrol continues to bolster its ‘tactical infrastructure’ — higher resolution cameras, for example, and an increased use of drones. ‘It’s unacceptable to us that folks along the border should be experiencing this type of activity,’ Mr. Beeson says. ‘We’re doing all we can.’” NY Times. Tactical infrastructure, eh? Not a ceeement wall? Hey if we make them pay it, and then they raise drug prices as a result to make us pay for it, who wins? I mean addicts who pay those higher prices will need to get the required extra cash… somewhere!
I’m Peter Dekom, and even lots of Trump voters don’t expect a victorious Donald actually to build that wasteful and clearly ineffective edifice, a tribute to the gullibility of slogan-believing voters.

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