Thursday, June 27, 2013

Something There Is That Doesn't Love a Wall

There's probably a lot that's good about S. 744, the sprawling immigration reform bill that was recently approved by the senate.  But one piece of it is crazy.  The immigration package includes provisions that call for a border security “surge” that would put 20,000 additional federal agents, hundreds of miles of new fencing between the U.S. and Mexico and 24 hour surveillance by drones.  At a cost of some $30 billion.  You really ought to start worrying when a senator promotes any bill by claiming that it would transform the U.S.-Mexico boundary into “the most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall,” as Sen. John McCain proudly claimed.  

I'm not even going to go into why the whole effort is mostly wrongheaded.  Militarizing the border will stifle trade and economic development in the area, the real solution to the issue of illegal immigration.  Congressman Henry Cuellar whose district includes the border crossing of Laredo, said it as well as anyone:  “You tell Mexicans that we need a border ‘surge’ and everyone thinks of the surge in Iraq, as if we’re saying they’re an enemy to overcome.  I’m for strong border security, but a fence is a 14th-century solution to a 21st-century problem.”

But here's the real kicker.  According to the Pew Research Center, illegal immigration has come to a standstill.   Indeed, the data show that the net migration flow from Mexico to the United States has stopped and may have reversed.  The standstill appears to be the result of many factors, including the weakened U.S. job and housing construction markets, heightened border enforcement, a rise in deportations, the growing dangers associated with illegal border crossings, the long-term decline in Mexico’s birth rates and the improvement of economic conditions in Mexico.  In any event, today, it appears that more Mexican are leaving the U.S. for Mexico than are coming here from Mexico.    Read all about it here.  Net Migration from Mexico Falls to Zero -- and Perhaps Less.

These two graphs are instructive:

So, the border surge may well have the opposite effect than that intended.  By preventing Mexicans to return home, it will actually end up increasing the number of illegals that would otherwise be in this country.  I think we can come up with a better use for that $30 billion.

Mending Wall

SOMETHING there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:         5
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,  10
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.  15
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.  20
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
He is all pine and I am apple-orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.  25
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.  30
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down!" I could say "Elves" to him,  35
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there,
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,  40
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

                                                                                                          Robert Frost


James R said...

$30 billion is a lot of money. Probably too much. At the current (2010) rate of 140,000 immigrants a year from Mexico, that's offering each one more than $214,000 not to come. I think the good senators may be overestimating the appeal of United States.

Big Myk said...

Of course, if we start offering some $200 thousand per person to stay out, everyone will be asking for admittance. Nothing is simple.

James R said...

Yes, of course, that was the point. Nothing is simple, but everything is humorous. I was evoking the the old farmers' joke of "I'm going into the not-raising-hogs business next year and was wondering what breed is most profitable not to raise."

I wanted our Canadian readers to feel slighted.

Of course, I also wanted, among other things, to stimulate thought about what spending money means. Is the net financial burden to the U.S. government over $214,000 per immigrant? I assume the good senators did the calculations.

And, of course, part of the humor is in taking a purely financial look at the issue. I meant a few more things, but no comment writer ever wants to explain his work.

By the way, on Oct 9, 1950, Time Magazine put Robert Frost on the cover with the quote, "Good fences make good neighbors", a strange choice especially considering from the same poem, they could have put the title of Myk's excellent blog entry instead.

Big Myk said...

One wonders what kind of extravagant border security would be in place if Mexico were a hostile rather than friendly neighbor.

"War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace."
Thomas Mann

Big Myk said...

Another take on the "border surge": Throughout history putting up walls has been a sign of impending decline. (or a wall goeth before a fall). See The Great Wall of Texas: How the U.S. Is Repeating One of History's Great Blunders.