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Hitting Our Heads Against A Useless Border Wall

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Hitting Our Heads Against A Useless Border Wall

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Border Wall

Illegal immigration from Mexico is yesterday’s problem. Last year, more Mexicans left the United States than entered, according to the Pew Research Center. But if Donald Trump were to follow through on threats to ditch or decimate the North American Free Trade Agreement, illegal immigration from Mexico would become tomorrow’s problem.

Just his mouthing off on imports from Mexico has sent the Mexican peso cratering. That means Mexican products have already become cheaper in the U.S. market, making them more competitive. It also makes crossing the border for jobs paid in U.S. dollars more attractive.

Ah, but won’t that “beautiful” wall keep immigrant workers out? It will not. As long as U.S. employers can get away with hiring cheaper undocumented labor, they will. Trump himself knowingly employed undocumented workers in the building of Trump Tower. They flew over from Poland.

Building a wall along the Mexican border is pure theater. If the objective is to keep terrorists from invading the country in the dead of night, then a wall with Canada would make just as much sense.

One must sympathize with ranchers along the southern border plagued by drug cartels crossing their properties. But they see the actual building of a wall as a joke. In the words of one Arizona rancher (and no fan of Hillary Clinton’s): “That is the most idiotic thing I’ve ever heard.”

Enterprising criminals could quickly bulldoze or dig under such a barrier. Round-the-clock surveillance by the Border Patrol might stop them, but then, you wouldn’t need the wall.

Today’s border-crossing migrants are most likely to be fleeing brutal violence and extreme poverty in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Most don’t want to sneak in at all, but instead put in claims for political asylum. That’s something they can do at official entry points in cities such as Laredo and El Paso, Texas.

Trump’s target audience for assaults on free trade, U.S. factory workers, would get little out of strangling trade with Mexico. Automakers and other manufacturers now rely on supply chains whereby their U.S. factories use parts and supplies made in lower-wage countries — and vice versa. This shared manufacturing enables companies to compete in world markets while employing high-paid labor here. (That said, automation is claiming jobs everywhere.)

This hasn’t gotten much national attention, but a round of trade wars would visit misery on our farm economy. For example, the U.S. is by far the world’s biggest exporter of corn, much of it headed to Asia and Latin America. Mexico happens to be the third-biggest foreign market for U.S. dairy and meat products.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association reported that American cattle producers were losing about $400,000 in sales every day the Trans-Pacific Partnership was not enacted. Trump just killed U.S. participation in that trade agreement. (Its members would have represented about 40 percent of the world’s economy.)

“TPP and NAFTA have long been convenient punching bags,” association president Tracy Brunner complained, “but the reality is that foreign trade has been one of the greatest success stories in the long history of the U.S. beef industry.”

An inescapable political note is that the farm belt overwhelmingly voted for the man who threatened its biggest foreign markets. You can’t blame Trump for this. He never wavered in his hostility to the big trade agreements that have benefited or could greatly benefit U.S. agriculture.

Back at the border, the wall will cost many billions while doing little to solve immigration and security problems. Rather, it will serve as a taxpayer-funded stage set for Trump whenever controversy pays a call and he needs a distraction. We’d better get used to this sort of thing.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

IMAGE: A general view shows a newly built section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall at Sunland Park, U.S. opposite the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, November 9, 2016. Picture taken from the Mexico side of the U.S.-Mexico border. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez/File Photo

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Froma Harrop

Froma Harrop’s nationally syndicated column appears in over 150 newspapers. Media Matters ranks her column 20th nationally in total readership and 14th in large newspaper concentration. Harrop has been a guest on PBS, MSNBC, Fox News and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and is a frequent voice on NPR and talk radio stations in every time zone as well.

A Loeb Award finalist for economic commentary in 2004 and again in 2011, Harrop was also a Scripps Howard Award finalist for commentary in 2010. She has been honored by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and the New England Associated Press News Executives Association has given her five awards.

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19 Comments

  1. Dominick Vila January 28, 2017

    Building a border wall, influenced more by overt racism that national security imperatives, will not solve the illegal immigration problem. (1) A large percentage of undocumented immigrants enter the USA via ports of entry with a valid passport, a tourist or student visa issued by the State Department, and never leave. (2) Illegal immigration via our Southern border is at an all time low. In fact, one million more Mexicans and Central Americans have left the country, either voluntarily or because of deportations, than those who have entered the USA legally or illegally. (3) The overwhelming majority of Latinos entering the USA do so via our border ports of entry. Some come to visit relatives, others come to shop, and many hold day jobs in U.S. border cities and towns, and return home after work. (4) Those determined to enter the USA illegally will not be stopped by a wall. They will use tall ladders, build tunnels, come in by boat, or travel to Canada and enter the USA via our Northern border. (5) Illegal immigration would end immediately if we fined employers who hire illegal immigrants, and shut them down if they are repeat offenders. (6) Illegal immigration would stop if semi-skilled immigrants from Latin countries were issued temporary work visas, a decision that would make illegal entry unnecessary, would help U.S. employers fill positions that most Americans workers are not interested in, and would allow them to continue to profit from cheap labor, while helping those who are desperate to earn enough to support their families. (7) A significant percentage of illegal immigrants are not from Mexico or Central America.
    Spending $12B to $15B building a wall at a time when the rest of the world is building bridges and welcoming refugees and migrants, is damaging our reputation, and making a mockery of our claim of being a nation of immigrants that welcomes newcomers and affords opportunities for all, regardless of gender, race, or religion. Our position on this issue is turning the USA into a cultural pariah, and a large segment of our population doesn’t seem to care. In fact, they welcome it.

    Reply
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  2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth January 28, 2017

    The more I consider the downward spiral of Trump’s life, a life wasted on the pursuit of fulfilling a lust for accumulating things and making money, the idiocy of the phenomenon called Donald J. Trump comes into sharper focus.

    This is the Era in which the destiny of humankind to finally be welded as One Family will have come about—assuming that the current products of “Adam and Eve” don’t eliminate themselves first over childish border conflicts, racialist nonsense, political affiliations, one’s ethnicity or Religion, and other senseless concerns.

    The highest form of evolution of humankind, as can be seen by reviewing society’s evolutionary pattern in the aggregate across the planet, clearly point to the next plateau of human achievement being the stage where all humanity is seen from the transcending view of being members of one Human Family with divergent physical forms and coloration. Anything that stands in the way of this “progress” of humanity along this path, and runs counter to the expansion of knowledge, is referred to by the word “conservative” in several places in Baha’i Writings. (Muhammad gives a sweeping account of such “conservative” forces in the Surah of Hud(surah 11) in the Qur’an,

    “Conservative” forces along each interval of humankind’s path of evolution were always the first and foremost in resisting change and “progress” in human interactions and expansion of its purpose, when each successive Revelation appeared, no matter where in the world each “renewal” of Revelation appeared. The accounts of each Messenger who appeared to human populations shows the common theme of “Conservative” forces arising to rebel against the Messenger in their insistence on following the “Religion of their fathers and forefathers”—a phrase used in the Qur’an and expanded on in greater detail now by Baha’u’llah(refer to Kitab-i-Iqan for a fuller description of this phenomenon).

    The Prophet Muhammad met this sort of resistance, first by the status quo of the wealthy and powerful members of the tribes in the Hijaz of the Arabian Peninsula; Abraham, Moses and Jesus met similar resistance from similar “conservative” elites—–secular and clerical. The lower classes shortly after this initial confrontation by the conservatives were prompted and incited by the conservatives to resist in an organized fashion with hostility to each Messenger. (Donald and the GOP are using the same strategy today in America).

    Donald, the GOP, jihadists, Russian oligarchs, Assad, Iranian and Saudi clerics and secular hardliners therein, the Taliban and ISIS, etc. are repeating this ancient theme, and in the end they will have failed just as conservative forces failed in the past to halt progress, whether along the lines of Religion’s evolution, or in the face of new sciences and better understanding of how nature works and interacts.

    Not only is a Wall, as conceived by Donald’s troubled mind, assinine and in conformity with the fearful wishes of the more ignorant members of American society—and absurd to say the least—but in terms of the pattern of progress humanity, this primitive and harebrained idea was doomed from the start. By observing the pattern of the evolution of groups of individual humans as they began to learn to walk upright over a million years ago and use speech to communicate with each other, it is obvious that the trend towards a sense of unity involving all humans originating from the primeval “Adam and Eve” on the east side of what is called Africa to populate the entire planet is inevitable

    Reply
    1. 788eddie January 28, 2017

      Thank you, Aaron. Well written and thoughtful.

    2. Dominick Vila January 29, 2017

      I could not believe it when I heard that we are going to join forces with Russia to, purportedly, destroy ISIS in Syria. A few days earlier, the proposal was to send U.S. troops to the border between Syria and Turkey to help rebel groups, including Kurdish fighters. We did an about face in a matter of days, and we are now going to join Russia in one of the greatest examples of genocide in the 21st century, all in the name of greatness…or to oblige the bear from the East!

      1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth January 30, 2017

        American leadership has been “beheaded” and as a result are leading in a helter-skelter manner like chickens without heads on a farm. One day they feel one way, the next day there is a change of plans—and so on.
        And the “bear from the East” is playing a major role in manipulating venal politicians, zeroing in on those who’re most crippled by being self-centered and ego-driven, e.g., Trump.

  3. Dan S January 28, 2017

    When I say Donald Trump is stupid it’s not just an opinion but a fact and not an alternative fact either. This guy is taking a sledgehammer approach to a vexing problem but one that can definitely be handled more diplomatically than his approach of building a damn wall no one wants. He’ll get plenty of blowback even from those who voted for him when he uses Eminent Domain to claim private property to build the wall against the southern border. I promise you there’ll be so many lawsuits filed to stop the wall he’ll be so tied up in litigation that wall will not be built EVER

    Reply
    1. Dominick Vila January 29, 2017

      The most unfortunate consequence of Trump’s policy proposals, insults, and threats, may be a resumption of anti-American feelings throughout much of the world. Those sentiments had subsided since the 1990s, to a great extent because of the respect that our government showed towards the rights of others. A resumption of anti-American feelings, at a time when China is about to start flexing their economic muscles now that the TPP is no more, is a very dangerous game for us.

      1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth January 30, 2017

        Yes, one may have to refer more to “Travel Alerts” put out by the State Dept. before making plans to travel abroad.

  4. domenica2 January 28, 2017

    good points, pity about the stance on the big free trade agreements. yes, they may serve the USA, but we in Europe are full of horror about what such agreements could mean for us: namely no less than the loss of our democratic rights and of the sovereignty of our states!… we will not let that happen, and I read that NAFTA has harmed Mexicos people in many ways. actually Trumps opposition against those agreements is the only good thing about him we have so far perceived…

    Reply
    1. Literally everything you’ve read about NAFTA has been nonsense.

      Pulling out of the TPP has pushed a bunch of nations into China’s orbit, at a time when they’re aggressively expanding into the South China Sea.

      1. domenica2 January 28, 2017

        oh no, believe me, being the target of such treaties ourselves, we have studied very thoroughly what that implies for the weaker nations. no thanks! let them expand!

      2. Dominick Vila January 29, 2017

        Pulling out of the TPP may prove to be the worst strategic mistake made by the USA in decades. Fear not, they blame everyone but themselves for contributing to shifting the balance of economic power to China at a rate the world has not yet seen.

  5. johninPCFL January 28, 2017

    One day soon maybe the droolers will understand that 48% of the “illegals” fly into airports, arrive via ship, or cross over from Canada.

    I guess we will need hundreds of walls: all along the northern border, along the coasts, and around each and every airport, bus, and train terminal. And after spending $trillions, we’ll find them every bit as useful as the Great Wall or Hadrian’s wall.

    Reply
    1. Dominick Vila January 29, 2017

      They may also find out that many illegals include newcomers from countries like Slovenia, who enter the USA with a tourist visa, and work and earn lots of money in the USA before becoming a permanent resident, and eventually a naturalized citizen. I doubt they are among the criminals about to be targeted for deportation. Alas, some may watch the proceedings from the comfort of the White House!

      1. johninPCFL January 29, 2017

        Does that make it a sham marriage, and Barron is an anchorbaby?

        1. Dominick Vila January 29, 2017

          If Melania’s surname was Gonzalez, it would.

          1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth January 30, 2017

            Truly an embarrassing collection of shots by a depraved woman who is now a 1st Lady—more like a Lady of the Evening, cavorting about looking for some “Johns”.

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