I’ve been an immigration lawyer for 23 yrs, and in that time I’ve seen many different approaches to our “border crisis”. Border crossings by immigrants without visas have occurred for decades, and for the longest time border crossers were treated fairly loosely by a system that knew we were a better landing place for many people in other parts of the world – particularly for our neighbours in the South.
That ended in a post 9.11 world. By 2010, comparatively few immigrants were entering the US without inspection. Clinton, Bush & Obama were all enforcement minded on immigration. In fact Obama was so tough on immigration that I am well known for referring to him as the Deporter In Chief.
#1 ILLEGAL BORDER CROSSINGS HAVE BEEN DROPPING SIGNIFICANTLY SINCE 2010
The border has never been more secure than it is now. Do we really need to spend 5.7 million building a wall? Historically speaking, walls never really kept out “invading hoards” . Our current legal systems and procedures seem to be doing a fantastic job according to the numbers above.
#2 THERE ARE GOING TO BE LEGAL BARRIERS TO BUILDING THE WALL
Trump isn’t the first person to try and “build a wall”. Much of Texas is privately owned ( and not all owners want a wall running through their land), there are boundary issues still on the table between the US and Mexico, and that’s before we get into indigenous land claims and rights. Bush tried to get governmental control of the land when he was in power through sheer threats and bully power, it worked for some, but the rest held tight…and likely aren’t going to capitulate now.
In 2009, the Homeland Security inspector general concluded that the Border Patrol had “achieved [its] progress primarily in areas where environmental and real estate issues did not cause significant delay.” There is now fast way to move the wall along; border land has been in stasis for the past decade.
#3 A WALL IS ONLY AS STRONG AS IT’S WEAKEST LINK
A wall is – by its very nature – something that people can go over, go under, and go through depending on how well it’s kept up and gaurded. In fact escaping through and over walls is one of the great movie tropes of all time. All you need is a ladder, a shovel, a terrible storm, a break in the guard duty, and you are free to go. But to place this in non fiction: the Berlin Wall, The Great Wall Of China, Jericho…oh and even an example more close to home that made it’ rounds as an internet meme.
#4 CURRENT IMMIGRATION LAWS WORK TO KEEP OUR COUNTRY SAFE: LETS SPEND THE MONEY EXTENDING THOSE
The figures are clear, the numbers of illegal immigrants entering the country have dropped significantly in the last ten years...but the numbers of those overstaying their visas has raised. It’s not our borders that are the problem, they are statistically more secure than they have ever been. We simply need to spend more money tracking those who should be using our current immigration system to CONTINUE to stay here legally once they are in.
Congress set aside $1.2 billion for the 700-mile border fence that was constructed in 2006. It ended up spending $3.5 billion for construction of the current combination of pedestrian fences and vehicle impediments. This fence line was far smaller than the one being considered today. Imagine if instead we spent a fraction of that cost extending and improving our immigration laws and processes?