Monday, September 05, 2011

Mr. Gorbachev, you still got the plans for that wall?

There has been some political talk about securing our southern border with Mexico.  There are several schools of thought on how to do that, but the one I am interested is in the concept of building a wall or fence.  Whether an actual barricade, or some hybrid of barrier + technology, I can state with absolute certainty:  it will not work.
One of the very first lessons you learn about building a defensive obstacle is that your obstacles must be observed.  You have to keep your  eye on them, or else they aren’t an obstacle.  If you build a wall of barbed wire, put tank-stopping ditches on both sides, and then on the outside of the ditches, put land mines, you have a pretty strong obstacle… but if you don’t watch over it, all you’ve done is spend a lot of labor and resources to build something a couple guys with wire cutters, a stick, and a shovel can penetrate in a couple hours.
Military obstacles (which, border defense being a military task) must be observed, and when whatever your obstacle is meant to protect is threatened, military force—deadly force—must be used.  You can build a wall to rival anything built by the Chinese, or anything built to defend Babylon, but if you lack the will to stop people from crossing that obstacle, then there is no point to building it.  The risk of being caught crossing our border is pretty miniscule compared to the rewards of entering our great social welfare state.  Make it across this line in the desert, and you are now eligible for welfare.  You are now eligible for medical care.  You are, at least in California, eligible for in-state tuition.  You can get a job, working below the federally-mandated minimum wage, but still paying far more than you would have made in your home country.  If you have a child, that child is automatically a citizen—which means you can’t be sent home, and are eligible for even more benefits. 
Whoever hires you also faces little risk.  With a few exceptions, the most they will get is a fine, and loss of your unskilled labor—until they drive by the local Home Depot and pick up a new (and often, the same) labor force.  The fine they pay for hiring illegals is less than the amount they would pay if they hired citizens, so in the long run, it just makes good financial sense to the businessman.  You pay no taxes on their pay, pay no social security, pay no workman’s comp, pay nothing but the scratch you pay your employees. 
How do you fix our illegal immigration problem?  It really is simple: make the risk for illegal entry to the US outweigh the reward.  If illegals had NO access to healthcare (of any kind, even emergency care) had no access to social services of any kind, had no access to education, had no access to housing, had no standing before the courts, had no claim to citizenship simply by being born here to illegal alien parents, they would have almost no incentive to come across our border.  The only reason they would come here is to look for work. 
If you made it a federal felony to hire illegals—knowingly or through failure to check for citizenship—and a felony which included automatic forfeiture of all business and personal assets—you’d see that incentive dry up pretty quickly. 
There would, naturally be problems.  Forced into a choice between finding no legal work in the US and going home, many illegals would turn to crime.  (Of course, being an illegal alien, in and of itself, is a crime, so it isn’t that far of a stretch.)  There would be an increase in crime rates—with a correlation between areas with higher populations of illegals and higher crime.  Remember that line up there about no standing before the courts?  That means they don’t get a lawyer.  They don’t get mirandized.  They don’t get any of the benefits of citizens who break the law.  Labor camps are okay.  Chain gangs are okay.  Firing illegal alien criminals back over the border via trebuchet is okay.  (And the preferred method, come to think of it.) 
Sure, build a wall.  (Shovel-ready jobs!) Monitor that wall.  (Perpetual government bureaucracy!)   Shoot trespassers on sight.  Use predators and snipers and moats filled with really irritable piranhas.  But also make the place they are trying to get to look a LOT less like the heaven it’s become, or you will never stop that tide of people who come here seeking the fruits of our society without contributing to it.

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