It’s always weird when I have to start one of these with disclosures, but here goes.
- I’m still a Republican and I still don’t think Donald Trump is qualified to be President.
- I also don’t think every single policy position he has is wrong because it came from him.
- Mexico is never going to pay for the border wall. Ever.
- A border wall and border security is a different policy issue than DACA/Dreamers (which will surely be settled before this discussion becomes reality.)
You can make the case a wall across our southern border with Mexico is not the worst policy position you’ve ever heard. In fact, it’s, kind of….good?
Sure, Trump haters have loved to ridicule it as a waste of money and unnecessary and because they don’t like the way he says “yuuuge.” Let’s start with cost. Trump has said $8 billion. Considering his pliable relationship with the truth, let’s not consider that a real estimate. Some estimates have been as high as $24 billion. In negotiations leading up to the shutdown, Senate Democrat Leader Chuck Schumer was willing to put $18 billion into wall construction. So, let’s use that. That is a gigantic amount of money to us. But, the yearly operating budget of the state of Texas is $127 billion. The federal government spends roughly $18 billion every month on debt interest out of a $4 trillion budget. So, look at the numbers in context.
While the presence of a wall (or fence, or whatever structure works on hilly, rocky, uneven land) will surely deter some illegal border crossings, it’s impossible to know just how many. It would likely ease the burden on Immigration & Customs Enforcement and Border Patrol agents, and hopefully convince some of the weird militia people to stop thinking they’re enforcers of U.S. law.
In a larger sense than blocking entrance into the country, what can a border wall proposal do? The legitimate discussion of a wall, or its construction, is likely to push forward the first serious chance to pass comprehensive immigration reform in our lifetimes. Before former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor got bounced in his primary by a Tea Party candidate in 2014, he was the first leading member of Congress to have a serious plan to address immigration. It’s been dead on arrival since then.
If a wall is authorized, or constructed, President Trump and Congressional Republicans will be compelled to come to the table and make concessions on immigration reform, including some sort of a path to citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants who are here today.
There are still an estimated hundreds of thousands of Mexicans and Latinos (from countries like El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and others) trying to cross the border illegally every year. A wall will undoubtedly make this harder and make it easier to enforce the law—that makes illegally crossing the border a crime.
$18 billion. .045% of the federal budget. If that’s all it takes to make a long-term fix to our immigration system, then that’s a yuuuuge deal.
Patrick Pfingsten is an award-winning journalist, political consultant, and PR expert. You can find him on Twitter @pfingsten1 or email him at email@example.com.