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President Trump went directly to the American people Tuesday evening with a televised plea for his proposed border wall. It was a sobering recitation of the problems this country has with illegal immigration and with criminals who don’t respect the American border. We and most Americans stand with him in wanting to resolve these issues:
- Most fundamentally, we need a safe, secure border. We need to know who and what is crossing our borders and we need to have control over border passage.
- We must improve our efforts to keep anyone from illegally entering the United States.
- We need to seek better ways of slowing the flow of illegal drugs into our country.
- Human trafficking must be stopped.
- We must better respond to the “humanitarian crisis,” the thousands of women and children who are fleeing dangerous, repressive countries like Guatamala and its neighbors, people who are trekking north through Mexico to seek safety in the United States. Those refugees are easy prey for robbers, rapists and murderers as they make their dangerous passage.
- And we must block terrorists, gang members, professional criminals and other undesirables from entering our country to prey on us and our neighbors.
We’re pleased to stand with the president in endorsing all of those goals.
But we can’t stand with him on one important part of his plan: A $5 billion border wall won’t solve any one of those problems. It will merely distract us from more workable solutions. It doesn’t matter whether the wall is made of concrete or steel. It doesn’t matter if it stands 20 feet high, or 30 or 40. All of history, going back millennia, tells us this truth: Build a better wall and your enemies will find a better way around, over or through it. A physical wall across part of our border with Mexico will only alter the path of all of those illegal movements. It won’t stop them.
What will? First and foremost, we need to keep doing what we’ve been doing. Illegal crossings of the U.S.-Mexico border have declined by about 75 percent since 2000. That’s a tribute to the security measures already taken. They’re mostly working and simply need to be enhanced and expanded.
The president argues that even his Democratic opponents have voted in the past for border walls, and he’s partially right about that. They have supported limited stretches of fencing along the border, where our security services believed they would be helpful. But the notion of a “big, beautiful wall” stretching along our border with Mexico is purely a Trump campaign gimmick, an idea that symbolized his tough stance on illegal immigration. As a metaphor, it works. As a physical structure, it won’t.
Here’s the problem: Like all law enforcement, border protection is best done by trained officers. If the president had asked for $5 billion to double or triple our Border Patrol forces and equip them with the latest and best technological gear to assist in their mission, we believe Congress would have entered serious discussions with him and largely supported his quest. But those same members of Congress, from both parties and especially those hailing from states on our Mexican border, know the problem and have done their fact-finding. They know that a wall isn’t the answer.
The fact is that most of the drugs and human traffic coming into our country from Mexico are arriving through legal ports of entry, hidden in trucks, airplanes, ships, cargo containers and other legitimate-appearing conveyances. Most of the opioids that are killing so many Americans are coming in from Asia, most often via U.S. Postal Service or other parcel-shipping services. As we’ve already seen, drug trafficking is ruled by the law of supply and demand. More than four decades of attempts at interdiction have largely been a trillion-dollar failure. A wall will add to the wasteful toll.
The “humanitarian crisis” won’t be stopped by a wall either. These pilgrims from oppression are surrendering to American authorities and seeking asylum as soon as they cross our border, often at legal entrances. That’s what they’ll continue to do.
Few terrorists are entering our country across the Mexican border. According to one study, only 15 suspected terrorists have been nabbed trying to cross our border with Mexico since 2001. Many more have been detained trying to cross our border with Canada. Homeland security experts say our biggest worry is homegrown terrorism, the radicalization of young people legally in this country, many of them born here. The same is true of gang activity. Better law enforcement and other community initiatives are the answer.
And taken as a group, illegal immigrants won’t be stopped by a wall, not when nearly half of them arrive here on legitimate visas and then simply disappear into the populace and stay here long after their visas have expired. A better visa tracking system, with universal use by employers of citizenship verification programs, is a much better answer.
So yes, Mr. President, let’s take illegal immigration more seriously. And let’s do things that will really make a difference. But let’s also recognize that a wall isn’t the answer, only a $5 billion waste of taxpayer money.
This article is from The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.