walls-dont-work

Well, big surprise, The Donald has broken another campaign promise. It seems that his new plan is for us American taxpayers to pay for his idiotic wall, and then maybe Mexico will pay for it (on an especially cold day in hell).

To me, the problem is not only that such a project would be extremely costly, but more importantly that it can not work. As I best understand from the president-elect’s incoherent rants, he wants to build this 1,989-mile long wall to keep foreigners from illegally entering the United States. This would also supposedly save us from the great threat posed by illegal immigration. He fears that illegal immigrants are undercutting the US labor market, bringing crime to our neighborhoods and smuggling drugs into our nation.

Thus, The Donald argues, a wall would constitute a “secure border” along our southern frontier making us far safer and more prosperous. Now, please let me explain why all that is pure bunk and doomed to fail…

First, we need a little perspective on what exactly a border is meant to do.

This may come as a shock, but borders were not originally intended to keep ordinary people from crossing from one country into another. I know that sounds weird (especially if you’re a conservative) but it’s a fact. When ancient kings and emperors began drawing borders on maps, it was primarily to establish what farmland belonged to whom. Face it, in a time when most people couldn’t even read, few could be expected to know precisely where the borders were even if you put up a sign.

But back then, no one particularly cared where a peasant decided to build his cottage. They did, however, care which king got to tax that poor schmuck. That’s why Europe has ethnic German populations in Poland, ethnic French in Germany, and so on.

Borders are, of course, still useful today. They decide who has jurisdiction over a criminal case and keep armies from accidently bumping into each other while on maneuvers. The United States has only had a dedicated border patrol since 1915 and for much of its history, it was a small force with few resources. Let me say that again: we have only had a border patrol since 1915, and our nation was founded in 1776! Other nations have never had such a force and consider crossing an international border as significant as we consider crossing a state line.

However, there have been times when nations have attempted to turn borders into real barriers. Hadrian’s wall separated the Romans from the Picts, the Great Wall of China separated the Han Chinese from the Mongols, and the Berlin Wall separated the communist Germans from the free parts of Berlin. And all of these walls share one important thing in common, my frinends—failure! Each and every one of ’em failed in its stated objective. Today, the remains of these massive structures are nothing more than architectural reminders of what empires do just before they crumble.

So, let’s say Trump does manage to get his great wall built, then what? Well, the casual foreigner is out of the illegal immigration game so perhaps that counts as a “win.” No longer could some guy without resources sneak into the United States just to find a job. Oh no, now only the professionals can get through our border.

After all, drug smugglers are not going to let a little concrete and steel get in the way of profit! Tunnels will be dug under our wall, holes will be punched through it, and one can envision specialized drones constructed to hop people over it. In short, people wanting to slip into the United States would now need a great deal of cash, but hey, the desperate will pay…and the smugglers will grow ever richer.

After a time, we may well discover that the cost of building the wall in the first place was the smaller price tag. The bigger expense would be repairing the holes, filling in the tunnels, and patrolling the length. As the years go by, our taxes will continue to flow into this monstrosity until the average American citizen has had enough. Then, our wall will begin to crumble and be just another monument to another failed empire.

But I do have a better idea, folks. Conservatives will think it crazy but hear me out.; instead of building a wall, why don’t we open the border!

We’d start a “guest worker” program. With proper ID from the foreigner’s nation of origin, he or she could pay a fee to get a United States guest worker card. This card would serve as proof of identification so the foreigner could get a driver’s license or whatever. On the back of the card would be the phone number of theDepartmentt of Labor so the guest workers can report if they are not being paid the same wages and benefits as their American co-worker in the same job position.

Oh, I can hear the conservatives flapping and squawking now.  “Oh, no you don’t! That’s AMNESTY! They will take our jobs, live off of our welfare, and bring crime and drugs wherever they go. We can’t allow that!”

To which I say, yes, it is a kind of amnesty, but it also saves us the bother of rounding up some eleven million people and putting them on south-bound buses. Honestly, can you think about how much that would cost? So, instead of throwing money away on deportation, why don’t we make a little dough instead?

The fees can fund the ID program in total, and once we know who they are, we can tax them. As the law stands now, they would not be eligible for welfare anyway because they are not US citizens. Now as to crime, the foreigner can now feel free to call the police when a gang moves into his neighborhood without fear of being deported. Thus immigrant communities will have the same reason to turn in thugs as anybody else–safer neighborhoods! When a guest worker is caught breaking the law, we send them to prison and deport them after they serve their sentence.

And, since guest workers would be entitled to be paid exactly like a US citizen, there would be no advantage of hiring a non-English speaker over a native American. Therefore, we need not fear them undercutting our labor market.

But what if one of these guest workers wants to vote? So sad and too bad; because they are still not US citizens. However, if a guest worker wants to become a US citizen, he or she would have the opportunity to apply and go through the usual process.

I know, I know, this means we would now have to tolerate a bunch of non-white strangers with different languages, religions, and food in our midst. But seriously, if that was the problem all along then the real issue has been racism, not immigration.

Does my idea sound fantastical?

To my mind, it’s simply practical. A guest worker program would raise revenue, discourage criminality, and end “under the table” wages that undercut American citizens in the workplace.

What sounds like pure fantasy to me is building a gigantic wall and expecting Mexico to pay for it. Now, that’s just nuts!

 

By Clayton J. Callahan

 

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