Donald Trump has signed an executive order to start planning for the border wall he promised to build during the presidential campaign.
Construction could start within “months,” he said after signing the order Wednesday.
The order also increased the nation’s deportation force.
We understand the emotional appeal of building a wall to solve difficult problems in the U.S. immigration system and national security — just build a wall to keep the bad people out, problem solved! — but we must deal in facts.
Here are a few of those facts, gleaned from the extensive, in-depth reporting done by a team of Arizona Daily Star journalists who produced “Beyond the Wall,” a project that was first published in July (and is available at tucson.com/beyondthewall):
- The U.S.Border Patrol apprehends far fewer — by about two-thirds — undocumented crossers than it did a decade ago.
- Those arrested are more likely to be prosecuted.
- About half of the 1,000 miles of border Trump wants to wall off already has fencing of some kind, a mix of barbed wire, tall metallic panels, steel plating or mesh. Most of it was built in the last decade and cost $2.3 billion.
- More Mexicans are leaving the U.S. than trying to enter for the first time since 2009.
Building a wall, or even more fencing, would require extremely expensive and difficult construction in hard-to-get-to mountains and canyons, and along environmentally sensitive lands.
And even if we accomplished that, it would not solve the problem of illegal immigration.
- Most hard drugs come through U.S. ports of entry, not across the borderlands.
- The largest group of undocumented immigrants in recent years is Central Americans, who turn themselves in at legal ports of entry, often seeking refugee status. A wall would not keep them out.
- Fully half of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States came here on legal visas and stayed after those visas expired. A wall would not have kept them out.
After speaking with law enforcement, business owners, ranchers, researchers, environmentalists and about 100 residents in the U.S. and Mexico, the Star’s team concluded:
“It’s tough to find anyone living along the borderlands — even those who agree with Trump that the international line is not secure — who thinks a wall is the solution. Instead, many border residents want fencing that makes sense for their area, agents and surveillance technology closer to the border, and a way for migrants to come here legally and work.”
Coherent and realistic response to facts on the ground, not campaign slogans, should govern our nation’s immigration and national security policies.
Yet Trump is moving ahead with his wall, as much as he can without legislation from Congress. Another campaign promise, however, to make Mexico pay for the wall, appears to have been postponed. Trump now says American taxpayers will foot the bill initially, but that we will be “reimbursed” by Mexico.
Mexico, unsurprisingly, says it will do no such thing.
Trump’s changing plans for how to fund the wall construction included — for a short time, at least — imposing a 20 percent tax on imported Mexican goods, according to his press secretary, Sean Spicer.
He has since said an import tax is only one idea under consideration.
Charging a 20 percent tax on imported goods wouldn’t punish Mexico as much as it would American consumers of fruits, vegetables, beef and other Mexican goods. They would be charged more to compensate for the tax — money out of our pockets.
In his week-old presidency, Trump has communicated by tweets and soundbites. He has shown that he does not understand the border region. If he did, he’d know that continued hostility with Mexico will do real economic damage to the United States.
Mexico is Arizona’s top trading partner, with $16 billion a year in imports and exports, and it is the nation’s third-largest trading partner with roughly half a billion dollars in goods crossing back and forth.
Trump’s border wall would have a negative effect on the entire country, but it would be in our backyard. It would be a massively expensive monument to the concept of confusing activity with achievement.
Trump’s wasteful wall should not be built.