Instead of a wall, why not fix America’s infrastructure?
President Trump used fake data in his national address Tuesday to create a climate of antiimmigrant hysteria and get U.S. taxpayers to pay $5.7 billion for a border wall, but the fact remains that illegal immigration is at historic lows, and that undocumented immigrants commit far fewer crimes than native-born Americans.
Unless you just landed on Earth – or you’re a regular viewer of Fox News — you should know by now that Trump’s border wall project is a nonsolution to a non-problem.
No serious study backs up Trump’s claims to justify spending billions in taxpayers’ money for a border wall, which he had originally promised would be paid for by Mexico.
Is there an invasion of illegal immigrants, as Trump claims? No. Despite a small uptick in recent months, border apprehensions of undocumented immigrants have plummeted from about 1.1 million in 2005 to 400,000 in 2017, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection figures.
Will the border wall stop illegal immigration? No. Two-thirds of all undocumented immigrants do not enter the country through the southern border. They arrive at U.S. airports with valid tourist or student visas and overstay their period of admission.
Does illegal immigration hurt Americans’ jobs? False again. Most economists agree undocumented immigrants do jobs Americans don’t want to do. In addition, with a historically low 3.9 percent unemployment rate, America’s needs more workers to fill construction and hospitality jobs.
Are undocumented immigrants violent criminals? No. On the contrary, undocumented immigrants commit fewer violent crimes than native-born Americans, according to a 2018 study by the libertarian CATO Institute. When I asked Cato Institute senior immigration policy analyst Alex Nowrasteh about Trump’s claim that 63,000 Americans have been killed by illegal immigrants, he said: “That’s just nonsense.”
Are illegal drugs coming from Mexico killing more Americans than were killed during the Vietnam War? Totally misleading. The current U.S. opioid crisis has many sources, including heroin coming from the southern border, prescription drugs handed out by unscrupulous doctors, and synthetic drugs coming from China through U.S. airports. Trump has deceptively put all hard drug-related deaths in the same bag — and blamed Mexico.
Trump is trying to create an immigration crisis to fire up his base and divert attention from his legal troubles. He’d rather TV networks focus on an alleged immigration crisis, than on the Mueller investigation into his ties with Russia and the dozens of alleged campaign violations, conflicts of interest and Cabinet corruption.
Instead of using taxpayers’ money to build his useless $5.7 billion border wall — which migrants would cross either by digging tunnels under it or climbing over it — Trump should use that money to rebuild our infrastructure.
As anybody who flies into Beijing or any other modern Asian airport can tell you, arriving at the biggest U.S. airports increasingly feels like landing in a Third World country. Rather than building a “big, beautiful wall” in the desert, modernize airports in New York, Los Angeles and Miami.
Our roads, bridges and internet connectivity are far behind other industrialized nations. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates the country will need to spend $4.5 trillion by 2025 to update its infrastructure, including roads, bridges and dams.
Trump’s border-wall charade has nothing to do with stopping crime or improving Americans’ lives. It’s populist demagoguery, a smokescreen to shift our attention away from Trump’s troubles.
Andres Oppenheimer is columnist for the Miami Herald. Email: aoppen[email protected] miamiherald.com
BY ANDRES OPPENHEIMER