Yesterday Trump signed an executive order to build a border wall with Mexico, a short-sighted move at best, and a disastrous one in all likelihood. Let us start with a bit of clarity, a few FACTS, by which I mean cold, hard data-based facts, not ‘alternative facts’.
- Mexico is not going to pay for Trump’s wall. Not today, not tomorrow, not next year, not ever. Furthermore, we have zero leverage to ‘force’ them to pay for it. They do not want the wall, and if the U.S. does, the U.S. taxpayers will pay for it.
- While Republicans claim the wall will cost a maximum of $15 billion, the reality is that it is far more likely, given the terrain and the fact that much of it would require purchasing land or land rights from private property owners, to be as high as $42 billion. I suspect even that is a lowball estimate, when you consider the Great Wall of China is estimated to have cost some $360 billion in today’s dollars and is just over twice as long as the Mexico-US border. Much of the border is comprised of natural borders such as the Rio Grande River, deserts, and canyon walls up to 1,500 high.
- The wall would be financed either by increasing the current budget deficit, increasing revenue through tax dollars on individuals, since Trump has promised to cut taxes on corporations, or cutting expenditures elsewhere, such as Social Security, Food Stamps, Medicare, ACA, etc. Either way, the wall is coming out of our pockets.
- The wall would significantly hurt the U.S. economy:
- The total value of U.S.-Mexico trade is more than $1 billion every day.
- More than 13 million Mexicans traveled to the United States in 2010, spending $8.7 billion.
- Roughly 6 million U.S. jobs are sustained by trade with Mexico.
- More than 20 percent of all U.S. jobs are tied in some way to trade along the border.
- The southwestern states, for the most part, do not support the wall. U.S. Representative Raúl Grijalva of Arizona calls it big mistake that would hurt local economies, interfere with the migratory patterns of more than 100 endangered species and raise “sovereignty concerns” with tribal lands. “To continue to militarize our border is to squander billions of taxpayer dollars on a scheme that is impossible from geographical and economic perspectives. It will achieve nothing more than the continued criminalization of immigrants and asylum seekers through mandatory detention. At the same time, the wall is a literal barrier to the cross-border commerce that is so vital to border communities like mine in southern Arizona.”
- According to PEW Research Center, there is net negative immigration from Mexico to the U.S.: “From 2009 to 2014, 1 million Mexicans and their families (including U.S.-born children) left the U.S. for Mexico, according to data from the 2014 Mexican National Survey of Demographic Dynamics (ENADID). U.S. census data for the same period show an estimated 870,000 Mexican nationals left Mexico to come to the U.S., a smaller number than the flow of families from the U.S. to Mexico.”
These are facts, not alternative facts, but facts determined and corroborated by researchers, scientists, economists, architects, and other professionals. But there is another reason the wall is such a bad idea, and that was highlighted in today’s news:
Mexican president cancels visit to Washington as tensions with Trump administration intensify
Mexico is one of the U.S.’ most vital, essential allies. On the economic side, Mexico is the 4th largest importer of goods from the U.S., after the EU, Canada and China. According to the U.S. Department of State:
“U.S. relations with Mexico are strong and vital. The two countries share a 2,000-mile border, and bilateral relations between the two have a direct impact on the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans, whether the issue is trade and economic reform, education exchange, citizen security, drug control, migration, entrepreneurship and innovation, or the environment. The scope of U.S.-Mexican relations is broad and goes beyond diplomatic and official relations. It entails extensive commercial, cultural, and educational ties, with some 1.4 billion dollars of two-way trade and hundreds of thousands of legal border crossings each day. In addition, a million American citizens live in Mexico. U.S. tourists to Mexico numbered over 20 million in 2013 making Mexico the top destination of U.S. travelers. Mexican tourists to the U.S. were over 14 million in 2013, and they spent an estimated $10.5 billion.”
Given the facts, any reasonable person with an IQ of at least 50 would conclude that the wall makes no sense at all. The wall is destined to destroy the relationship with one of our two physically closest allies, damage our own economy, cost taxpayers billions, damage the environment – and all for nothing! There are simpler, less expensive solutions to the problem of illegal immigration, but this wall is both a ‘white elephant’ and an albatross for the citizens of the U.S. It is to be hoped that Congress will effectively stop the wall project before any additional money is spent, though I do not place a lot of faith that the Republicans in Congress will stop licking Trump’s boots any time soon. The damage that has already been done to diplomatic relations with Mexico will need cooler heads and seasoned diplomacy, and even then the rift is likely to remain for the next four years at least. This is the result of the choice made by the electorate two months ago, and look what we have wrought.