Perhaps the biggest argument against the necessity of a border wall comes from the social media posts of conservatives showing statements from Speaker Pelosi or President Obama about border security and the problems caused by illegals crossing into the US. Somewhere along the line, probably from inaccurate conservative media sources, these people have the impression that Democrats are being hypocritical about Trump’s wall because they have advocated for tighter border security in the past but now, suddenly, because Trump wants a wall, they are against it simply because he is for it.
Democrats have always been in favor of tighter border security. Look at the record of both previous Democrats who occupied the White House in real, hard numbers, not conservative social media perspective without support. Both of the most recent Democrats who served in the White House proposed budgets to beef up the border patrol and increase its effectiveness. Neither of them showed much tolerance for people who simply crossed into the United States illegally for their own benefit and found places that would hire them without reporting them to the authorities. On the other hand, they showed considerable compassion, as you might expect Americans who understand the fundamental values of this country, toward those who came here seeking refuge from oppression. The fact is, when the Democrats were in power during the Obama administration, the flood of illegal aliens crossing the border that happened during the Bush administration was shut down to a trickle by beefed-up border security and a better equipped, better funded border patrol along with a better funded drug enforcement effort that focused on ports of entry and on law enforcement infiltration of the drug cartels. Some of the bigger, more powerful Mexican and Latin American drug lords were arrested and rendered ineffective. The effort might have produced even better results had it not been for the Republican sequester which cut into the funding the had been provided for both the border patrol and the Department of Homeland Security.
But “increased border security” does not translate into “build the wall.” We have walls along the southern border, high walls that, in heavily populated areas are also doubled up with parallel fencing creating a “no man’s land” between the wall itself and the actual border. The longest and most formidable stretch of barricade along the border runs from the Pacific Ocean, where devices have been built to attempt to keep people from circumventing the wall via the water, to a point about 60 miles east of the border area between San Diego and Tijuana. This is the most heavily populated area on both sides of the border. There is a metal-plate fence that runs along the actual border, and about 20 yards beyond that, on the American side, is the much taller barricade with the angled top and barbed wire. This creates a “no man’s land” under surveillance, where many of those who manage to get over the initial fence are caught. Similar barriers are found in the highly populated areas along both sides of the border all the way to the Gulf of Mexico east of Brownsville, Texas.
The “open” stretches of the border are not without security. The geography all along the southern border forms some difficult barriers to cross. In the deserts of Southern Arizona and New Mexico, there are few roads, and it is a long distance to the areas where there are enough jobs to sustain all but a small population of migrant workers. Many of those who cross here illegally are employed by local ranchers in seasonal work and many of them are the same workers who return year after year. Yes, it’s illegal for them to cross and also illegal to employ them, but that’s been going on for decades. Most of those who cross the border in these places are migrant workers who don’t venture far into the United States and they wind up going back when they earn enough money. The border patrols and local law enforcement don’t really bother much with them. They are busy tracking down those involved in the drug trade and have been very successful in doing so. Using aerial surveillance and infra-red cameras at short intervals, the barriers of terrain and climate are more formidable to cross for any who are not familiar with the territory.
But migrants and those seeking political asylum in the United States are not causing a “crisis” on the southern border, not by any stretch of the imagination. That the United States is seen as a refuge from oppression is a concept of our own doing and our own history and the proximity of the US to countries like Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, where dictatorships, political corruption and the drug trade have made life miserable for millions means that our options to slow down the stream of immigrants from those countries are limited. It is not as easy to “go in and help” those countries resolve these issues as most people think. Conservatives don’t want to spend the money on it. Liberals are loathe to interfere in the government affairs of sovereign countries. So those who have the stamina, strength and can collect a few resources set out to try to find a better life for their families in the United States, just like all of our ancestors did at some point. The United States has more than enough resources (if we make our wealthy corporate elite pay their fair share of taxes) to care for just about any number of Central American or Mexican refugees who could manage to get to our southern border. We have a process that is capable of handling that efficiently and effectively. And the migrant workers and asylum-seekers who come here are not terrorists, murderers or criminals. The crime rate among them is far lower than it is among the population of any border town or city on the American side. Contrary to both Trump’s assertions and the reporting of the conservative media, these people are not creating a crisis on the southern border.
The real problem we have on the border is the drug trade. And yes, it is a crisis. But clearly it is not one that will be solved by spending $5 billion on a wall. According to the local government officials, police departments and border patrol agents, the ground under the double barricade along the border south of San Diego is “like Swiss cheese” with the sophisticated tunnel system the drug cartels financed and built. And the amount of traffic that comes through the port of entry makes it relatively easy for drug traffickers to smuggle their merchandise right through. It is at It takes equally sophisticated intelligence and detection to keep up with that and according to Trump’s own Department of Homeland Security, we don’t have it because we can’t afford it. Well, we could if we spent the $5 billion he wants to waste on a wall on giving our law enforcements the ability to stop it. When local government officials, including law enforcement and local border patrol agents tried to tell him that on a recent visit to the border, he ignored them.
Most of the drugs coming into the US across the border come through the busiest ports of entry through the large cities on either side. The San Diego-Tijuana crossings see the most drug traffic but El Paso-Juarez and the Rio Grande Valley in Texas are not far behind. There are enough video clips on conservative social media posts to demonstrate that both President Obama and Nancy Pelosi, along with most of the rest of the members of their party, favor strong border security and are willing to invest in those methods that have proven to be effective. A wall will be an expensive boondoggle that satisfies the perceptions of the uninformed, but not an effective tool against the drug traffic that is the real crisis on our southern border.