Border Control is a fantasy Posted by: Jon Henke
on Friday, May 19, 2006
A couple more notes on the immigration issue. First, via Steven Taylor at Poliblogger, I note that Congress is making noise about building a fence (wall, barrier, whatever). But, as Taylor observes, a barrier will "shift the flow, but not dampen it". In fact, that has already happened in places where barriers have been erected. All we need to do is spend more money, though. A bigger wall, more guards, more patrols This time will be different. A Washington Post story on border enforcement efforts illustrates just how Quixotic the notion of "border control" really is...
Starting in 1993, the Border Patrol blockaded major urban crossing points from San Diego to El Paso, where large groups of immigrants simply dashed across in what were known as "banzai runs." In El Paso, agents continuously patrolled the Rio Grande, hoping to deter immigrants. A year later in San Diego, the government built a 10-foot-high steel fence for Operation Gatekeeper. Eventually, 106 miles of fencing was constructed near every metropolis along the border with Mexico.
But the illegal crossings have continued.
Gatekeeper and the other efforts did nothing to stem the tide of illegal entries to the United States. In fiscal 2005, the Border Patrol apprehended 1.1 million people, about the same as in 1993. Several academic studies have estimated that 500,000 got through, also the same as in 1993, despite the number of Border Patrol agents tripling to more than 11,000 in 12 years.
All we need to do is spend more money, though. A bigger wall, more guards, more patrols This time will be different. This time, we'll catch twice as many border crossers.
And then we'll release them back into Mexico to try again.
Aside from generally not working, there have also been unintended consequences of this attempt to secure the border. Instead of travelling through urban areas, border crossers now turn to the deserts — where many die — or trespass on private property. The demand to avoid patrols has created a market for coyotes willing to smuggle anybody who pays—day laborer, criminal, terrorist, whatever—into the US. What's more...
Because it became riskier and more expensive to cross — coyotes charge $1,500 per person, on average — once illegal immigrants were here, they tended to stay. Also, a decade ago, most people crossing were men. Now, Van Wagenen said, "We catch whole families. Mother, children, grandma and grandpa are in the group."
Which brings me to two other enforcement problems.
We simply allow Mexicans to walk into the US. Want to visit San Diego? Just walk to the Tijuana border, show some ID to the border guards, and they wave you in. Americans and Mexicans can cross the border virtually unmolested. In fact, the US Mexican border is the most highly legally trafficked border in the world. The "San Ysidro Port of Entry, which links Tijuana, Mexico with San Diego" is the "world's busiest border crossing"
They can simply walk in. . .and stay. How does more border control solve that?
Between "a third and a half of the illegal immigrants in this country" enter "on legal visas and then never leave". Increased border control won't do a thing about that.
consider how that kind of mission dillution would hamper response to genuine security threats. Before you insist on a wall, troops on the border, or other "border control" busy-work, stop to consider just how limited the effectiveness of any kind of "border control" can possibly be so long as it's primarily stopping people who aren't violent criminals or terrorists; consider how that kind of mission dillution would hamper response to genuine security threats.
Another interesting data point comes from Bryan Caplan at EconLog. Research indicates that, contra popular belief...
On average, high-immigration states like California are unusually PRO-immigrant. [...] The simplest interpretation of this result is that people who rarely see an immigrant can easily scapegoat them for everything wrong in the world. Personal experience doesn't get in the way of fantasy. But people who actually see immigrants have trouble escaping the fact that immigrants do hard, dirty jobs that few Americans want - at a realistic wage, anyway.
He also eliminated immigrants from the survey, but still found that in "states with lots of immigrants, even native-born Americans are more pro-immigration."
Jon, fencing doesn’t just re-direct the flow... to put it in terms you might like, IT INCREASES THE COSTS OF CERTAIN OPTIONS, forcing the customer into other less optimal alternatives. It raises the cost of crossing the border.
Ask Mcq, the point of fortifications is not that they stop an advance, but rather that they make it PREFERABLE to go elsewhere.
Raising costs increases the cost of illegal labour. Combined with INCREASED enforcement in the interior will increase the cost of labour, so hopefully the SUPPLY of it will fall.
Now McQ and I and others question whether the President and the Senate will REALLY do either of these necessary things, but they will affect tthe supply of illegal immigrnts, or depress the demand for them.
You know, I built a fence on one side of my yard, but my dogs still seem to get out! /sarcasm
If one is predisposed to dismiss the effect of a physical barrier as means to achieve better border control, one naturally will point to a study that shows that 106 miles of fencing along a 2000 mile border has not diminished the total flow of illegals. I certainly dont think its realistic to fence that entire length, yet a longer barrier would enable the border control agencies to develop more focused control methods.
I realize that there are many supporting a barrier that are more on the anti-immigration side of things, but there are a good number of us who simply want a less chaotic system than what we presently have. Certainly a system where hundreds of thousands of would-be immigrants are not, in effect, penalized because they dont live in Mexico. The path to citizenship should be the same for all.
As for the guest worker idea? We see how well that has worked in Europe - talk about unintended consequences! Leftist style multiculturalism is folly. The US has greatly benefited from the melting pot concept, and I see no reason to stop now. Give us your wretched refuse indeed so long as they want to become productive members of, and for, the USA.
Gee, there seems to be something different with those two block quotes. Children.....can anyone tell me what it is?
Bains, perhaps if you’d put a fence up around all sides, with gaps every ten feet because it would be too costly to fence the whole thing, the dog wouldn’t be able to get out. If the dog is still getting out after that the obvious conclusion is that fences just don’t work.
I guess the word ’fence’ must mean something different now than it did when they sang "give me land, lots of land, under starry skies above, don’t fence me in...."
106 miles of fence along a 2000 mile border. OF COURSE ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION HASN’T STOPPED. That is the biggest ’duh’ in the world. I can’t believe you are saying this garbage (although I hold you in high regard since you converted me to this site). If we build a 2000 mile fence along the border, do you think we’ll have 1 million illegal aliens a year going through the Tijuana checkpoint? Don’t think so.
At that point, we can reform/get rid of the INS, increase the number of legal immigrants that we accept each year, and cut the bureaucracy so that the path to citizenship does not take so long.