Walls & Illegal Immigration


A picture taken 29 April 1984 shows various graffiti painted on the Berlin Wall on the West Berlin side while East German and Soviet flags (R) fly on the other side of the East Berlin no-mans-land spiked with anti-tanks traps AFP Photo Joel Robine

A picture taken 29 April 1984 shows various graffiti painted on the Berlin Wall on the West Berlin side while East German and Soviet flags (R) fly on the other side of the East Berlin no-mans-land spiked with anti-tanks traps AFP Photo Joel Robine

The Trumpster – sorry, President Trumpster – isn’t the first politician to advocate for a big wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to stop illegal immigration. Joe “Bad Penny” Miller famously argued for a “fence like East Germany built” to control illegal border crossings.

It was President Trumpster who made the idiot idea a central claim of his Presidential campaign. And, unlike most of his campaign promises, the President appears to be following through on it.

At a cost of an estimated $15 to $40 billion dollars, we can have a 2,000 mile long fence along he Mexico border that won’t stop people from trying to get into the United States. It won’t stop Salvadorans trying to escape gang violence; it won’t stop Venezuelans trying to escape starvation. a thirty foot high wall will create a market for thirty-one foot ladders. A fence is not a barrier to a desperate enough human being. Proof is all through history, from the Berlin Wall to the existing 700 miles of wall already in place.

The Berlin Wall, built in 1961, had two concrete fences, topped with razor wire, and 100 meters of bare gravel between the two fences, in the field of fire of the 116 watchtowers. It’s probably President Trumpster’s wet dream. But despite that massive fortification, despite the 200 or so people who were killed trying to cross, an estimated 5,000 people did escape between 1962 and 1988. It didn’t work. Walls don’t work. Only a person criminally ignorant of history believes a wall will work.

A refugee from San Salvador, fleeing the certainty of being murdered in his home country, isn’t going to be deterred by a fence or a wall. The worst thing that can happen is he – and it’s mostly young men – will be killed trying to cross. There’s a chance he’ll get over. There’s a certainty he’ll die if he goes home.

$15 to $40 billion would be a lot more usefully spent addressing the problems that are driving people to flee their homelands. The rate of illegal immigration from Panama, where the economy and political situation is relatively stable, is nearly zero. The rate of illegal immigration from Mexico declined significantly when the Mexican economy was better.

Putting it another way, ex-migration from from Central America is a symptom, not the real problem. A sensible Administration would deal with the underlying problems and not feed America’s recurring tendency to paranoia, jingoism and racist xenophobia. But we didn’t elect a sensible Administration.

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