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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Braden: Illegal Immigration is Down, but Support for the Border Wall Remains


Immigration as a political talking point has seen increased levels of popularity in today’s polarized discourse. For the right-wing, there appears to be a superstitious fear regarding illegal immigrants as one of our nation’s top threats, while the left denies a problem exists at all. Both positions continue to gain footing among constituents despite their elusive character, but only one side offers a solution in the matter. I’m speaking of course about the Republican party, and the now infamous big, beautiful border wall they so incessantly claim to be the solution for an alleged overwhelming influx of illegal alien entry.

The promise for constructing this massive border wall started early on the Trump campaign trail and quickly evolved into a common Trump supporter mantra. At Trump campaign rallies, chants of “lock her up!” regarding the criminality of Hillary Clinton were soon accompanied by an equally earth-shattering, and agonizingly repetitive plea to “build a wall.”

Criticisms of the wall’s potential construction poured in with proportionate passion from left and centrist voters. The biggest objection for the wall continues to be the colossal cost it might impose on taxpayers, despite guarantees from the President that the Mexican government would foot the bill.

Varying estimations for the wall’s overall cost include a report by senate Democrats last April that claimed an initial figure of $70 billion plus an annual $150 million maintenance cost would be required to fund the project, but an internal report from Homeland Security estimated a considerably lower dollar amount at $21.6 billion. As of this January, the President now estimates total construction costs to be $18 billion. All of these valuations potentially represent a significant extension to the federal deficit. For comparison, government discretionary spending allocated only $29.1 billion for Social Security, Unemployment and Labor costs in 2015.

The cost is far from the only issue with the wall proposal. Wayne Cornelius, co-founder of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies explained last September that of the illegal immigrants that successfully make it into the U.S., one-third to one-half come via forged documents or hidden in vehicles that pass through border crossings. Cornelius also noted that total illegal immigration has declined at a staggering level. In an interview with The Los Angeles Times, Cornelius claimed that while illegal immigration reached 1.8 million entries in 2000, that number decreased significantly to only 200,000 in 2016. He points to an increase in the cost of smuggling and a growing job market in Mexico as some of the reasons for this drastic drop in numbers.

One unlikely group dishing out criticism for the wall is the U.S. Border Patrol. They contend that the President’s promise to make the wall a solid, 30 ft. structure might actually impede their work on the border in that their ability to access potential crossing threats would be severely hindered if they couldn’t see through the wall. In a Fox News appearance, the same border agents noted that a physical structure doesn’t have the ability to stop or deter illegal immigration and, without sufficient staff and technology to support it, the wall itself is meaningless. This increase in Border Patrol staff would raise the overall cost considerably. So, if a massive construction cost and a significant decline in illegal immigration haven’t successfully persuaded proponents of the wall project to reconsider their position, surely hesitation from the very entity tasked with guarding the border should provide the clarification needed to finally reject this terrible idea.

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