2018 is drawing to a close. As the final days of the year race toward their end, I would like to take this opportunity to end some pernicious fallacies.
First and foremost is the idea that Central American migrants are somehow performing actions which are illegal in the United States. They are not. Period. They are attempting to follow standard procedures for those who wish to immigrate to the United States. That is to say, they are trying to go to a port of entry and be processed for acceptance or rejection into this country. In so doing, they are no different than any other group who has attempted to join the United States. Irish, Italians, Chinese, Germans and many more came fleeing oppression in their home countries and found a home in America… often bringing with them things like St. Patrick’s Day and pizza.
This brings us to a second fallacy: that a wall will stem the tide of illegal immigration. It will not. The reasons are many:
- Hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants each year are people who came as tourists and simply didn’t leave. The Department of Homeland Security estimates there were more than 600,000 of those in 2017 alone… a year when the Trump administration, supposedly having “stopping illegal immigration” as a priority, was in charge.
- The existing areas of wall in Southern California have not stopped traffic across the border; highly sophisticated tunnels have been found which cross from Mexico into the United States. If a wall is built which stretches across the entire border, more of those tunnels will be built. The tunnels are used almost exclusively by organized crime in the form of gangs and cartels. They will still be getting their people into the U.S.
- Illegal immigrants come from all over the world, not just Central America. Discoveries of families hiding in shipping containers coming from Southeast Asia have provided a perfect example of this.
What a wall would diminish, and diminish greatly, are illegal crossings from Mexico by those not affiliated with organized crime. This is not an invalid goal. It does come with some definite benefits, such as being an action in favor of enforcing existing law and a reduction in usage of public services. It comes with drawbacks, too, such as diminishing trade across the border and environmental impacts. Because of this, the relative merit of a wall vs the relative cost of a wall is a complex issue. Set it aside.
The acknowledged reason for wanting a wall – indeed, to restrict immigration – is to minimize crime. It is a fallacy, however, that a significant percentage of illegals are criminals – beyond such things as using stolen or falsified identities or entering improperly in the first place. For those who view those crimes as significant problems, the wall makes a bit more sense. For those concerned about things like theft and violent crime, however, it is not a very good reason; criminals have shown to typically have low regard for the law, and are unlikely to eschew using one of the many other entrance methods which would still be available to them. The argument gains strength, however, when corollary situations are considered; for example, city laws which restrict law enforcement from asking about immigration status when they catch criminals.
Those laws are not enacted to protect violent felons. They are created to protect people who are here illegally but are viewed as contributing in one fashion or another to the locality. With a reduction in traffic by people merely seeking honest work, there would be a lower political drive for protections which could be taken advantage of by cartel and gang operatives. Again, it’s more complex than it first appears. Set it aside.
What about a merit-based immigration system? I admit, I love this idea… but the question must be asked, what does it mean? It is a fallacy to think that it has a concrete definition. In my view, “merit” would indicate that the person in question understood and appreciated limited government, fiscal responsibility and an emphasis on individual rights while maintaining a recognition of inherent value in our societal structure. In simpler terms, that they understand that what makes American special has nothing to do with a joint experience watching Gilligan’s Island and everything to do with free markets and personal freedom. But, again, it’s complex; other people will have other views of what merit-based immigration is, and even if it’s a good thing. Set it aside.
Now we go back to all of the issues which have been set aside. They share a trait: they are all complex. All of them have significant positives and negatives associated with them.
So, who should be dealing with these issues? Congress. Not the President, not the media, not a grossly underfunded crowdsourcing effort. This is exactly what Congress is for: to act as representatives and discuss the legality of various issues, enacting law as necessary.
This is how our system is supposed to work. Moving the authority and the responsibility away from Congress allows them to shirk their duty and concentrates decision-making from a body which has access to thousands of information streams down to a person who has time to access merely a dozen or two. Even with the most wise and experienced of Presidents, this is a bad idea. Applied to our most recent leaders, it’s catastrophic.