Border Security: the Facts

No one wants or supports an open border with no controls. However some are using fear tactics and false claims to promote extreme solutions. As everyone knows, President Trump ran as a candidate, and drew massive and raucous support from his crowds as he promised a "beautiful wall," from sea to the gulf, all paid for by Mexico. The reasoning was in large part to protect our sovereignty and halt the flow of criminals, reduce crime, and stop the flow of drugs passing through "open borders" into the US.

Approximately 37% if the US population supports the president's position completely ... fully without any qualification,  and several popular radio talks-show hosts remind him daily of his commitment. Another 55% or so of the population take an equally strong stand in opposition and prefer the money be spent for other ways to improve border security. Related, but somewhat different from the wall itself, both sides want to reform immigration laws, but the approaches are quite different.

Let's look at some facts regarding crime and drugs, especially as they concern our southern border. Unless otherwise noted, all of these data come from US Government sources.

Most illegal drugs enter the country through official ports of entry on board fishing boats, trains, and tractor-trailers at legal ports of entry. In addition to government data, former cartel members who have testified at the ongoing trial of "El Chapo" in New  York have substantiated this as their primary way of bringing in drugs.

These narco gangs also used tunnels under the border (and border walls) as a primary method, especially  in the 1980's-1990's. But US law enforcement has focused on this method, and now most organized gangs' drugs come in through legal ports. This is done by hiding the drugs and cocaine in secret compartments in cars and trailers. Again, nearly all this is done through legal ports of entry. Of course this implies that improved detection in these areas would be an effective way to spend more money on the problem.

The current opioid epidemic has been, at least 50% of it, due to prescription drugs written by doctors and filled by pharmacies. Controls on this problem are taking hold, but the damage has been severe. Again, none of this is affected by a wall or even by better controls at legal ports of entry. But the use of illegal opioids or the new scourge, chemical derivatives such as synthetic heroin or fentanyls, is based largely on illegal imports from China, and these are brought into the country through legal ports of entry from Mexico and China in hidden form. Again, unrelated to any wall.

In terms of crime committed by illegal immigrants, if we exclude the fact that they are here by over-staying a legal visa, the best current data (1900-2014) show that states with larger shares of illegal immigrants have lower crime rates, and "illegal immigration does not increase violence" (the journal Criminology). All in all, a multitude of studies conclude that people in the country illegally do not commit violent crimes at a higher rate than other people. In fact, the Libertarian Cato Institute has reached the same conclusions in a series of studies, with one finding that people living illegally in Texas had 56 percent fewer criminal convictions than native-born Americans as a percentage of their respective populations.

I won't even get into some complications regarding a concrete or steel wall, since those sections must built on solid ground, not in the middle of the Rio Grande River, and this all on (mostly) privately owned land. Many or these places are on ranch land where cattle or other grazing animals are kept, and a wall cuts off the supply of water for the herds. As you might expect, the land owners do not look positively on this problem, as well as the "taking" of their land by the government for a barrier most do not think is needed, or will do any good.

So here we are. Faced with a President who has made a somewhat rash, but emotionally charged promise that his base loves to hear, and won't let go of, no matter that the logical arguments are to the contrary. Personally, I think there are many, many more effective ways to improve border security; technology and improved surveillance and staffing are key. But in the long run, if there are millions and millions of people who simply want to escape violence and poverty in Central America and Mexico, any fundamental solution must include the reasons why they feel they have to leave home and friends, and attempt a long and dangerous journey to the US. None of this is simple or easy, but the US has become a symbol of rejection and police power. Just as East Germany was reviled with the Stasi and the Berlin Wall to keep people in, we are becoming associated with negative images of dogs and crying children, along with a President who beings out fear and encourages our worst, not our best. This is sad, and is based on faulty logic and flawed arguments.

Enjoy life, it's the only one we will get.

Jim George

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1 Response

  1. JK James George
    Here are some comments received on email: * From SW: Jim, BRAVO on your writings on Border Security! I love data and logic - you nailed it! I have been asked many times what my opinions on a Border wall are? I tell them that a barrier of some sort at some places makes sense. Enhanced surveillance and other tactics make sense at other places. Your data has encapsulated it nicely - I will simply refer people to your blog when they ask me what I support. I support the George Solution! *********************************************

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