Spending billions of dollars building hundreds of miles of additional walls – or "steel fins," or whatever you want to call it – on the US-Mexico border is a bad idea. This is a critical, underestimated aspect of the current dispute that has resulted in President Trump partially closing the government.
If the President of the United States finally wants to spend $ 5 billion on a pet project that is personally important to him and partially fulfills a campaign promise, then he should be able to. And the time-honored way to accomplish this is to give the skeptics of Congress something else. That's how the system has worked since Alexander Hamilton helped James Madison take over the federal debt in return for settling the state capital on the banks of the Potomac River.
But at the beginning of the year, when it appeared that a compromise between Wall money and a path to citizenship was in the pipeline for DREAMers, it was immigration hardlines in Trump's own government who thwarted the deal. That is certainly their prerogative, but it underlines the core truth of this argument: hardliners for immigration do not believe that the wall is particularly useful or important in the real world. If they really wanted a wall, they would get a wall by offering something ̵
But just because the wall idea is so bad, Democrats are rightly not giving it away for free.
The wall is a very bad idea
Obviously, there is nothing stupid about the general idea of walls to separate piles from each other. However, if you've ever been to the border between the US and Mexico, you've probably already seen that there are already many walls . A significant part of the border consists of transnational metropolitan areas such as San Diego-Tijuana or El Paso-Juarez, where it would be very difficult without the establishment of physical barriers to prevent the border patrol from preventing people from sneaking around.
What remains are abandoned, uninhabited border areas where construction logistics is difficult, crossing is difficult, and the Enlightenment work of the border patrol is relatively simple.
Over the past decade, the rise of export-oriented manufacturing jobs in Mexico and the relocation of Mexican demographics has reduced the number of Mexicans who want to come to the US illegally during the introduction of the Real ID program has made it more difficult to illegally work. The combined result is that the number of undocumented immigrants is falling, driven almost exclusively by one million fewer undocumented Mexican citizens in the United States.
There are still many foreign-born people living illegally in the United States, but nearly two-thirds of them have been here for more than ten years, and the Pew Research Center estimates that a majority of new unauthorized comers initially Entering the United States is a state with a valid visa, rather than sneaking over a border.
Today's action at the border concerns asylum seekers in terms of immigration, whole family units arriving and either crossing legal ports of entry or deliberately presenting themselves to the border patrol after an illegal crossing.
This is a pretty tough problem, but building additional miles in the middle of nowhere will not improve this. Even if the Trump government wanted to hold asylum seekers on the streets of border towns due to lack of capacity, it is clear that we must tackle this problem if we invest huge new sums of money in the border. More resources are needed to make asylum applications faster, to secure people with pending applications in a sustainable and humane way, and to assist the countries of Central America in tackling the underlying issues that drive people north.
Immigration hardliners know that the wall is a bad idea.
The message here is that when Congressional Democrats came close to an agreement to swap aid for DREAMer for wall money, the immigration enthusiasts did not engage in details but dealt with a large number of independent demands.
As Dara Lind wrote in January, the White House's proposed framework for an agreement ultimately included: "A revision of the asylum laws, more internal enforcement of the rules, and a broad crackdown on legal immigration under the TRISE-approved RAISE Law The RAISE Law is a plan to halve the legal level of immigration showing how few immigration restrictions actually focus on the nominal debate on border security that has stalled the government.  But that's the point, if your goal is to reduce the number of foreign-born people living in the United States by all means necessary, building an additional 700-mile-long border wall is not particularly useful therefore uninteresting, the way for DREAMER or other persons in exchange for a e not very useful wall to extend to citizenship.
Conversely, if the wall is extremely useful, Trump could try to offset its costs by cutting spending on another aspect of immigration enforcement. But because the wall is a bad idea, it would be a bad deal and he would not offer it. Of course, he can not offer to offset the costs with higher taxes for the rich, as this would blow up the Republican Party coalition – a coalition that prefers to use the border wall for partisan profits, but at its core seems to be providing money to rich people.
The Art of Deals
A Washington Post editorial Friday morning argues that "the way out of stalemate has been obvious for weeks," throws the DREAMer Wall exchange, scolds the White House for doing so scrapped for the sake of balance, Nancy Pelosi scolds because she has accepted the obvious bargaining tactic that she is no longer interested in the business.
The truth is that nothing is obvious here.
It seems to be a good deal, just because a path to citizenship for DREAMER is a real, valuable thing that will make a big difference in people's lives while the wall is completely stupid. If you take the anti-immigration position seriously, that's a terrible business. They would have traded something real for a bit of political theater.
The true way forward would be the opposite of admitting to the White House that the wall is stupid and reopening the government. Then we could start a legislative negotiation on the issues that are in fact controversial: internal enforcement, asylum, treatment of long-lived, unauthorized migrants, and future legal immigration flows. The Trump administration can not even admit publicly that Mexico will not pay for the wall, and even fewer admit that the whole wall concept is essentially irrelevant to the goals of its immigration policy.
As long as this persists, it's hard to find a way out.