To the Editor:
I am writing in response to the Jan. 25 On the Fence feature. A few facts have been lost in the debate over the border wall:
Virtually all American citizens want border security. The argument over the wall should be a debate about how we spend taxpayer dollars to get the maximum return on investment.
We already have a wall, or at least an effective barrier that spans 34 percent the border. The remaining land is unfenced for good reasons. Most of the border land (66 percent) is owned by states or individuals. Much of the private land is owned by ranchers who will resist a government taking. Huge chunks of unfenced federal border land are mountainous or remote. Also, international treaty restricts our ability to construct permanent barriers along the Rio Grande River (65 percent of the border).
The supposed $5.7 billion price tag is merely a down payment. No one, not even Trump, believes that the wall could be built that cheaply. Homeland Security estimates the total cost at $21.6 billion, but other government estimates are as high as $70 billion.
Reducing illegal immigration is not going to reduce the crime rate. While Trump cites numbers of illegal immigrants who commit crimes, such statistics are worthless for understanding if they are actually causing crime at a disproportionate rate. Factcheck.org concluded that “the available research that estimates the relationship between illegal immigration and crime generally shows an association with lower crime rates.”
What started as an applause line at Trump rallies has evolved into a phony national emergency. If the matter is so urgent, why didn’t Republicans prioritize wall funding during the two years they held all of the levers of power? Probably because the majority of new illegal entries are due to legal visitors overstaying their visas, and that most drugs entering the country come through ports of entry. Most significantly, Southwest border apprehensions have dropped 82 percent from their peak in 2000, a clear indication of a problem in decline.
The existing wall seems to be doing its job, in combination with other measures. A complete border wall is hopelessly impractical, and serves only to draw resources away from alternative measures that are more cost-effective.