In­stead of a wall, why not fix Amer­ica’s in­fra­struc­ture?

The Modesto Bee - - Opinion -

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

Mi­ami Her­ald

BY AN­DRES OP­PEN­HEIMER

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