Trump is building it

Knapps

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27, Jan 2017

US President Donald Trump took the first step to fulfill his pledge to "build a wall" on the Mexican border by signing an order to "build a large physical barrier on the southern border". Trump has accused Mexico of sending “rapists and criminals” into the US. The White House said that a 20% tax on Mexican imports could be used to pay for the wall. The move can spectacularly backfire on America.

What is the announcement?

President Donald Trump has signed directives to begin building a wall along US border with Mexico and crack down on US cities that shield undocumented immigrants, moving quickly on sweeping and divisive plans to curb immigration and boost national security.

  • The move "will improve safety in both countries", Trump said after signing the orders on Wednesday.
  • "A nation without borders is not a nation. Starting today, the US gets back control of its borders," he said.
  • The measure will also bolster resources for border security agents, increase detention space for undocumented immigrants and ensure people are deported.
  • In an interview with ABC News on Jan 25, Trump said construction of the wall would start within months, with planning starting immediately, and that Mexico would pay back to the US "100 percent" of the costs.

Condemning the move, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto reiterated that his country will not pay for the construction of the wall. He later cancelled his upcoming trip to meet Trump.

  • "Mexico does not believe in walls. I have said it time and again: Mexico will not pay for any wall," he said.
  • "I regret and condemn the decision of the United States to continue construction of a wall that, for years, has divided us instead of uniting us," Pena Nieto said in a brief televised message.

Why does Trump think the wall is needed?

Stemming immigration was a central plank of Trump's election campaign. His signature policy prescription was to build a wall across the 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) border between the United States and Mexico. Trump successfully tapped into the resentment toward the roughly 11 million illegal immigrants already in the United States and said during the campaign he would deport them all.

  • Some of the border is already fenced, but Trump says a wall is needed to stop illegal immigrants entering from Latin America.
  • According to Trump, "This will help dismantle cartels, keeping illegal weapons and cash from flowing out of American and into Mexico."

The Republican president is also expected to take steps in the coming days to limit legal immigration, including executive orders restricting refugees and blocking the issuing of visas to people from several Muslim-majority Middle Eastern and North African countries including Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Yemen.

When will Trump face practical problems in building the wall?

The wall will cost a fortune but will be worth near to nothing, goes the argument.

The cost, nature and extent of the wall remain unclear. Trump last year put the cost at “probably $8 billion,” although other estimates are higher, and said the wall would span 1,000 miles (1,600 km) because of the terrain of the border.

Geographical constraints

According to CNN, there already is a wall - 700 miles (1000 km) of it - along the roughly 1,900-mile US-Mexico border. And where the wall leaves off, drones, surveillance technology, or Border Control facilities and Border Control agents pick up.

  • Any promise to build more wall will fail mostly because of geography.You cannot build a wall on the river Rio Grande, for example. And in other border areas vast mountain ranges make an ocean-to-gulf wall simply impossible, if not ridiculous, to build.Would it be worth the effort

Political constraints

Then, there are political challenges to building a wall that have nothing to do with Mexico or geography.

  • In Texas, a red state, a lot of Americans are not too keen on building a new wall, and the same is true in New Mexico. In Arizona, most of the Mexico border already has a wall.
  • Many in these southern border states who oppose further extending the wall believe it would inhibit commercial and agricultural activity. In some areas, America's longstanding deference to tribal lands would prohibit such a barrier.

Funding constraints

Experts have voiced doubts about whether a wall would actually stem illegal immigration, or if it is worth the 20 billion dollars it is expected to cost.

  • Any action from the White House would be piecemeal, diverting only existing funds toward the project.
  • The Republican-controlled Congress would need to supply new money if the wall is to be anywhere near completed, and Trump's party has spent the last decade preaching fiscal prudence.
  • Furthermore, much of the land needed to build the wall is privately owned, implying lengthy legal proceedings, political blowback, and substantial expropriation payments.

The numbers are not adding up.

  • Migration by Mexicans to the US is at its lowest point since the 1970s, according to Mexican government and international data.
  • Center for Latin American Monetary Studies (CEMLA) estimates that migration from Mexico has been slowing down since 2008 after growing from 1990 to its peak in 2007.
  • CEMLA reported that Mexican migration to the US is now negative, with more people returning due to lower workforce demand, repatriations, border controls and a growing anti-immigrant sentiment in states such as Arizona.

If they are not very willing to come even legally, what makes Trump believe that they want to come illegally

Note: The Berlin Wall spanned just 96 miles comparatively, and it cost about $25 million to build in 1961, or around $200 million today. The exact cost of a 2000-mile wall in a very difficult terrain is extremely difficult to estimate. At the very minimum it would be around 20 billion USD.

Where are the pros and cons of the wall?

Pros

  • The supporters of the wall believe that it would control the borders, which is required for national security.
  • It will reduce the amount of illegal drugs that are being transported over the southern border. The fence would help reduce the amount of drug related lawlessness on both sides of the border.
  • They believe it will reduce the influx of low skill illegal immigrants that are driving US wages down, taking jobs that normally would be performed by US citizens.
  • Further, the massive influx of illegal immigrants across the southern border is significantly increasing the costs to provide education, medical services and law enforcement.

Cons

  • The impracticality of actually “building the wall” leads one to wonder if the move is only tactical symbolism on a cornerstone campaign promise. But what it definitely achieves is, it reveals Trump's consistent adherence to his unfortunate campaign platform:America as unwelcoming: anti-Muslim, anti-refugee, anti-immigrant.
  • Many Americans view their country with pride as “a nation of immigrants,” and President John Kennedy wrote a book with that title more than half a century ago.Its entire space program was designed and led by German migrants. But that is set to change.
  • Trump’s actions could, thus, fundamentally change the American stance on immigration, as well as further testing relations with Mexico.
  • Given the need to coordinate intelligence and law enforcement activities at the border, maintaining cordial working relationships with Mexico should take precedence over sealing the border with physical barriers.
  • Smoke-and-mirror proposals like these will do little to stem a terror threat (terrorists with French passports, for example, will make it through easily) but do much to heighten antagonism toward the country. Terror groups like ISIS are experts at exploiting situations like this to boost their recruitment.
  • American people, like all other people around the world, would respond to price rise. The low-skilled, low-wage-earning Mexican migrants have kept the prices low. Mexican imports are sought after in America because they are far cheaper.Will the Americans be willing to pay more for their daily purchases to make American great again

Where does this leave Mexico

For Mexico, the rise of Trump is seen as the country’s biggest threat from its northern neighbor since World War I, when U.S. Marines briefly occupied the city of Veracruz. It also overturns six decades of U.S. policy that placed stability in Mexico as a key priority.

  • Mexico depends heavily on the US for trade. The national currency, the peso, has already weakened by about 13% since the election and foreign direct investment, which had already tumbled 23% in the first nine months of 2016, appears to have dried up altogether since the U.S. election.

We are talking big numbers here: U.S. goods and services trade with Mexico totaled an estimated $583.6 billion in 2015. Exports were $267.2 billion; imports were $316.4 billion.

  • The U.S. goods and services trade deficit with Mexico was $49.2 billion in 2015. Compared to the huge size of the US economy, they should be easily able to absorb a 50 billion USD deficit.
  • Mexico was the United States' 2nd largest goods export market in 2015.Can it ever be a sound strategy to kill your second largest customer
  • The top import categories in 2015 were:vehicles ($74 billion), electrical machinery ($63 billion), machinery ($49 billion), mineral fuels ($14 billion), and optical and medical instruments ($12 billion).By imposing high tariffs on these imports, the US would hurt its own competitiveness. The cost of doing business in America would jump significantly.

Free trade is crucial to Mexico’s growth.

  • While American political leaders ranging from Trump to Sen. Bernie Sanders have blamed NAFTA and free trade more broadly for job losses in the U.S., it has turned exports into the engine of Mexico’s economy.
  • NAFTA helped a wide swath of the country develop, helped end the country’s chronic boom and busts, and ushered in a fivefold rise in annual foreign direct investment—mostly by U.S. companies.

Just Thursday morning, President Trump threatened to cancel a scheduled meeting next week with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, during which both sides were expected to agree on a framework to renegotiate NAFTA, if Mexico refuses to pay for the wall.Peña Nieto responded by calling off the trip. The White House said that a 20% tax on Mexican imports could be used to pay for the wall.

  • Such a tax would lead to American businesses shifting their production back to the US, resulting in job losses in Mexico.

Further, the remittances from Mexicans living in the United States are a key source of income for many families in Mexico, where around half the population lives in poverty.

  • The value of the remittances considerably exceeds that of Mexico's oil exports.
  • Remittances to Mexico posted their biggest jump in over ten years in November, 2016 in a reaction to the U.S. election victory of Donald Trump, who threatened to block the transfers and eroded confidence in the peso currency during the campaign.
  • Mexicans abroad sent home nearly $2.4 billion in transfers in November, 24.7 percent higher than a year earlier, marking their fastest pace of expansion since March 2006, according to Mexican central bank data.

Who said what on this move?

  • During a White House briefing, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said, “Building this barrier is more than just a campaign promise, it’s a common sense first step to really securing our porous border…This will stem the flow of drugs, crime, illegal immigration into the United States”.
  • Asked about Trump’s wall, Republican US Senator John McCain said a physical barrier is not enough to secure the border and called for the additional use of observation towers, drones and other technology.“Walls can be easily breached,” said McCain, whose home state of Arizona borders Mexico.

Mexican politicians, commentators and media have hit back at President Donald Trump's formal launch of his US-Mexico border wall project, calling it the act of an "enemy" and "unworthy" of the United States.

  • Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto said in a brief televised message, "I regret and condemn the decision of the United States to continue construction of a wall that, for years, has divided us instead of uniting us…..Mexico does not believe in walls. I have said it time and again: Mexico will not pay for any wall," he said, referring to Trump's vow to make his southern neighbour pay for the barrier.”
  • Senator Armando Rios Piter called Mr Trump's announcement a "hostile and enemy act" and urged Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to stay away from a scheduled meeting with the new US president, scheduled for 31 January.
  • Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a former Mexican presidential candidate and leader of the left-wing opposition party National Regeneration Movement, MORENA, portrayed Mr Trump's plan as an act of aggression."President Trump: your wall attacks us and leaves the [US] Statute of Liberty as a myth. We'll go to the international courts. Long live fraternity," he wrote on his Twitter account.
  • Prominent Mexican political analyst Jesus Silva-Herzog Marquez called it an "announcement of a humiliation", and appeared unimpressed by Mr Trump's offer of a "win-win" relationship between the two neighbours."Trump offers a sweet to Pena Nieto, while not hiding the stick," he tweeted.

Trump’s plans prompted an immediate outcry from immigrant advocates who said Trump was jeopardizing the rights and freedoms of millions of people.

  • “The border wall is about political theatre at the expense of civil liberties,” said Christian Ramirez, director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition immigrant advocacy group.
  • “It is not national security policy. Border communities are among the safest in the nation and patrolling them with tens of thousands of heavily armed, poorly trained, unaccountable agents puts lives at risks. This will turn these communities into de facto military zones,” Ramirez said.

One Mexican brilliantly summarized the feelings of his country:

Just because a few Mexicans have committed crimes - just like a few Americans commit crimes - please do not call all Mexicans criminals. Send the criminals to jail for a long term; don’t send all Mexicans home.Use your billions of dollars to build schools for American children, not a wall against a country which has been your friend.

How should this issue be ideally addressed?

‘Building a wall’ is a politically appealing strategy for its simplicity, but it misunderstands the problems of globalization and migration it aims to address.Building walls rarely achieves the intended effect, and may result in wasted resources and lost opportunities for the United States.

  • First and foremost, if a country wants to control unauthorized immigration, it should take steps to reduce the outflow of people by contributing to development projects in the sending countries and by creating a sustainable legal process to filter those it wants to come.

At home, the country must enforce laws that sanction not just immigrants who enter illegally, but also those who profit from their presence, like their employers.

There are three types of immigrants and each should be dealt with differently.

  • Illegal immigrants who can show they currently are employed and with no criminal record should be granted temporary work visas after they pay a fine. A work visa will allow the visa holder to work legally in the U.S., paying income taxes and traveling in and out of the U.S. with no constraints. These benefits should meet what most illegal immigrants are seeking. But because a work visa is not an immigration visa, the visa holders will still be considered non-resident aliens and therefore will not have access to federal means-tested welfare benefits. The work visa will be good for three years and can be renewed as long as the applicant is employed.
  • If illegal immigrants have brought their families with them, they ought to pay a fine for their families too. Their family members, excluding children who were born in the US, will get temporary visitor visas. The length of their visa should be the same as the working visa, and they can renew their visas as long as their primary family member’s work visa is valid. Since a visitor visa is also a non-immigration visa, these visa holders will not have access to federal means-tested welfare benefits either.
  • Any illegal immigrant who has a criminal record, including creating a false identity or using a fraudulent Social Security number, can be deported immediately and made ineligible to apply for any U.S. visa for five years.

How to solve illegal immigration problem is not the problem. These ideas have been around for many years. What is lacking is the political will to do the right things and someone who can articulate these solutions in simple and candid manner that will win support from most of the Americans.

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Tags | Build a wall Make America Great Again