Sunday, January 13, 2019

Facts to decide if a Border Wall is a Good Idea

We are currently going through a government shutdown that has gone on for some weeks because the President and his supporters believe we need to have a wall on our southern border, and the problem demands immediate attention.  Lets review some facts.

The two key arguments for building a wall on our southern border are to stop drug smuggling and catch terrorists attempting to enter the US.

The drug smuggling argument is getting undermined as I write this blog by news reports coming from a wide variety of sources that few drug smugglers bring drugs in across expanses of open borders that a wall would in theory protect.  They bring drugs in through legal ports of entry at border crossings, into US ports in fishing or other boats or by air flying over the border.   A statistical analysis shows our border drug enforcement is already highly effective at stopping drug smuggling across the open expanses of land that a wall would cover.

Terrorists coming across the border is a second argument in the current push for a border wall.  In the last 24 years every domestic terror event has been perpetrated by legal citizens or legal immigrants, which would suggest what we have been doing is working pretty well.  Oddly the only events involving terrorists with actual plans in place involved cases of entry through our open Canadian border.  For a description of what we have been doing link to this study from the Center for Immigration Studies.

Are walls a cost effective deterrent?  In 2006 a Republican Congress (with democratic support) sent a bill to Republican President Bush that created a stretch of wall along the southern border in a part of Arizona.  Since then there have been two government reports on the impact of the wall, a report in 2008 from the Congressional Research Office, and a report in 2017 from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).   A fair summary is that both reports find that wall was routinely breached and that the cost effectiveness of a wall was dubious.  Here is an article that summarizes the findings of both reports:  

Immigration has been a political football for a quarter of a century, largely pushed by Republicans seeking election by campaigning on the dangers of immigration.  In the last 24 years Republicans have controlled both the Congress and the Presidency for 8 years, and Republicans have controlled Congress for another 6 years, for a total of 14 years of Republican dominance (including the last two years).  Contrast that with Democrats who have controlled Congress for exactly two years (2009-2010 - with a Democratic President).

Immigration has clearly been a productive campaign issue for Republicans as they have controlled both houses of Congress in 14 of the last 24 years compared to 2 for the Democrats.  Now it's a crisis?  

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