“Common Sense”

In the first Republican Presidential debate, Donald Trump reiterated his proposal to build a fence between the United States and Mexico, and even said he’d get Mexico to help pay for it. Given Trump’s current polling figures, millions of Americans believe that it’s a “common sense” proposal.

The fence issue illustrates one of the big problems with so-called common sense ideas. Often they’re anything but sensible. The land border with Mexico stretches 1,969 miles, and the Department of Homeland Security has already fenced some 651 miles of that border, mostly near urban areas and international bridges. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, with over 58,000 personnel and a budget of $4 billion, also patrols that area and the more remote borderlands in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, using 16,875 vehicles, 269 aircraft, 300 watercraft, and 300 camera towers, as well as aerial drones.

While the number of illegal immigrants crossing from Mexico annually has declined more than sixty percent since 2000, the Border Patrol still apprehends more than 100,000 illegals annually, and agency cost estimates to fence the entire border top twenty billion dollars, not including annual maintenance. And even fences are not secure, since each year the agency repairs more than 4,000 breaches in the existing fencing. To effectively seal the U.S.-Mexico border would require the equivalent of a 1,969-mile Berlin Wall, and maintaining and staffing it would likely cost well over $100 billion over the next ten to fifteen years. And illegals would then take to the seas, or tunnel under it. Also, does anyone really think Mexico can come up with that kind of money when they can’t even control the crime syndicates in Mexico?

In the meantime, there are over eleven million illegal immigrants in the United States, and trying to apprehend and deport them would require the equivalent of Nazi Germany’s SS troopers. Gee… a Berlin Wall and the storm troopers… what ever happened to America, the land built on the hopes of aspirations of immigrants, the land where 95% of the entire population consists of immigrants and the descendants of immigrants?

Likewise proposals to “bring back American factory jobs” are nonsense. The United States manufactures far more than it did twenty years ago – and it does so with far fewer workers through the use of computers and automation. Those kind of jobs are never coming back.

Yet tens of millions of people swallow such simplistic political promises. Yes, we need a better handle on immigration and better jobs for millions of Americans, and a lot of other improvements, but simplistic political promises based on wishes and so-called common sense aren’t going to do anything effective to deal with either.

10 thoughts on ““Common Sense””

  1. cremes says:

    We don’t need Nazi-level tactics to get illegal aliens to self deport. We need to instantiate very clear laws with severe penalties (fines, jail time, etc) for any *employers* who hire illegals. We can spend a portion of the $20B on finishing the “e-verify” system and require all employers to use it.

    If illegals can’t find work, they will self deport.

    Next, deport any illegals in our jails.

    We’d probably be rid of a majority of them within a few short years.

    This is a realistic way of resolving the problem. To fix it forever, we need to make it easier for worthwhile aliens to move here and work towards citizenship (perhaps a point-based system with awards for education, advanced skills, etc).

    No Nazis need apply.

    1. The laws already make much of what illegal immigrants and employers do illegal. That hasn’t stopped immigrants from coming.

      And what are you going to do to the farmers and fruit growers who can’t get “legals” to pick their crops, or to the businesses who think they hire legals, when those “legals” are actually illegals with forged papers? We don’t have the manpower in governments at all levels to police those “very clear laws” you’re outlining… and people who are desperate to work will simply become more ingenious. Yours is another one of those “common sense” solutions that will cost more to implement than taxpayers will pay for.

      Police budgets are are strained everywhere. So are municipal and county budgets. So are federal budgets. The BLM doesn’t have the money or resources or people to enforce grazing regulations. The court systems are backed up years already. All the laws on the books won’t work if they can’t be enforced, and to enforce existing laws, let alone what you’re proposing, will require expenditures that no electorate will pay for, especially considering that voters won’t pay to enforce effectively what’s already on the books.

  2. Joe says:

    The very notion of “self-deportation” comes from ignorance.

    Few people leave their families and homes to learn a new language and culture out of boredom. Usually they do so because they lack the means to sustain themselves where they live, often because of war (Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Sudan), or the depredations of globalization. As climate change bites harder, this problem will expand.

    If people have no legal way to subsist, they will find illegal methods, and crime will rise.

    Yet not everyone can move to the rich countries: the more people, the fewer resources each person can have, even more so if resources are shared unequally. The Renaissance occurred mostly due to the plague reducing the European population so much that each person had more, and was valued more.

    How we maintain an unstable equilibrium of populations without descending into inhumanity is a key question for the 21st century.

  3. Steve says:

    Much of the argument between the left and the right over immigration stems from intentional misunderstanding and mischaracterization.

    Conservatives imagine that liberals want to throw open the borders to everyone including criminals and terrorists.

    Liberals imagine that conservatives want to separate mothers from babies and beat the husband with clubs while burning Spanish language books.

    Even in a benign forum like this Mr. Modesitt alludes to the Nazi state while reminiscing about our wonderful immigrant past. Population density, rapid travel, terrorism and relatively portable weapons of mass destruction have changed immigration, and past immigration wasn’t all “hopes and aspirations” but included slavery, indentured servitude, famine and war.

    Cremes references the failed immigration strategy of self deportation and Joe calls Crèmes ignorant. Meanwhile, Mr. Modesitt takes a page from the second amendment folks stating we already have enough laws on the books. He says more laws won’t help but doesn’t take the next step and argue that we should enforce the established laws.

    What I want to hear is more about the “key question for the 21st century” and less bemoaning our current state. So far no politician has talked about population control, documentation, health care, gun control, taxes, or welfare and disablility. How can they? You open those discussions and you will never be president because your opponents will mischaracterize you rather than discuss the topic at hand.

    1. I NEVER said our immigrant past was wonderful. In fact, as I’ve mentioned in past blogs, it was pretty brutal, especially if we consider the astronomical death toll among native Americans. What I did say was that everyone here is an immigrant or a descendant of one, and if you go back far enough that includes native Americans. I also did deal with the issue of enforcing laws by pointing out that politically we as a people won’t spend the money and the resources to undertake that enforcement. Enforcement costs money, lots of it. You just can’t say, “we should enforce the laws,”and let it go at that.

    2. Joe says:

      For the record, I did not call cremes ignorant.

      I stated the solution cremes proposed was based on ignorance. Since many people propose this type of solution, cremes might have heard it and felt that it made sense, not knowing the full situation.

      We all adopt ideas that sound right, but that we haven’t fully vetted ourselves… and then we later learn that they were misguided. The whole PR / advertising industry is based on that fact. But it is easier to learn new facts if we are able to distinguish ourselves from the opinions we currently happen to hold.

  4. cremes says:

    I came back after a few days and was unsurprised to discover that my thoughts were dismissed. As usual, the perfect is the enemy of the good.

    I also find it unsurprising that I am attacked yet neither our host nor Joe has any other solution to offer. But my idea must be dismissed as unworkable. (I appreciate the help from Steve though.)

    Reading through the host’s and Joe’s responses indicate that they might believe there isn’t anything we can do so we should do nothing.

    E-verify won’t work. It’s too expensive. Illegals will get faked documents. Law enforcement is too small, has too small a budget, can’t be everywhere, crime will rise, etc., etc.

    I have a challenge that I know you’ll dodge. Please tell me what you think *may* work, how much it *may* cost, and how easily we could get our lawmakers behind your idea.

    1. It’s not a question of getting lawmakers behind any idea. Lawmakers respond to only two things, campaign contributions and/or votes. You have to convince people, especially core group voters, or large contributors that an idea will work. Almost no lawmaker is going to support anything that will destroy his voting base or his contributors. These days lawmakers are first and foremost followers, not leaders. After I spent almost 20 years as a moderately high level political staffer and consultant in Washington, D.C., that’s one thing that became very clear fairly early. It never mattered how good or bad an idea was; what mattered was the support it had… or occasionally, the ability to sneak a critical provision into a section of a bill that just had to be passed to keep government operating.

      What you’re ignoring, which doesn’t surprise me, because most people don’t really understand the cost of government, is that, under the present conditions, we don’t have the tax revenues to do any of the things you’re proposing. Enforcement costs money, lots of it. Because of the shortage of funds, government at all levels can’t enforce a lot of the laws on the books, some on which shouldn’t even be enforced, like jail sentences for possession of small amounts of marijuana. If you want more enforcement of the laws dealing with immigration, then you have to get both the funding and the community support, and you’re not going to get that support if it places burdens on the voters in their current mind-set.

      That’s one reason why I do the blogs I do… because in my own way I’m trying to get people to look at things in a different way.

  5. Joe says:

    Since migration is the result of various causes, to prevent it, all we need to do is change the causes. If people are happy where they are, they won’t leave. The following measures would mitigate the problem:

    * Reduce the number of military interventions. Destroying the economy of Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Syria results in migrants.

    * Ensure trade agreements don’t deprive millions of their traditional livelihoods. Many Hispanics who come to the US were farmers who were unable to compete with US agricultural products after NAFTA was introduced.

    * Ensure the population fits within the country’s carrying capacity. Educating women is one effective and uncontroversial way of doing this. Other methods (food aid laced with contraceptives, reducing access to modern medicine, or genocide) are morally questionable, but the worst of them have been well-tested in recent history.

    * Stop changing the world’s climate, ensuring fewer climate refugees.

    * Make traveling more difficult and expensive, by reducing the ease of moving people and goods, for instance by cutting all oil production. This implies reversing globalization.

    I’m sure there are other necessary steps. However, even this partial list clearly goes against the interests of the richest corporations and countries which have been pushing the opposite policies. As such it has little to no chance of being implemented.

    In fact illegal immigration is a profit center: it provides cheap labor for our farmers, downward pressure on wages, and new inmates for our prisons. Politicians are unlikely to do much to reduce it, since doing so would hurt their pay-masters, as LEM outlined above.

    If the current power structure is maintained, LEM’s vision of a fascist future is a likely scenario. It would provide more $$$ for the security-industrial complex without requiring any change to the causes of migration. Historically many civilizations have collapsed, rather than change their power structures. In contrast, restricting the population’s freedom might seem a cheap price to pay.

    The alternative is a change of power structure. This has rarely occurred without a lot of bloodshed… and often the result wasn’t all that different from what preceded it.

    Do I think something needs to be done?


    Do I think anything other than window-dressing that causes even more suffering will be done?


  6. cremes says:

    Thank you both for your answers.

    Our host says that there is insufficient support to change the laws. Secondly, the proposals that I made are impossible to implement because they are too expensive and taxpayers won’t support it.

    Joe says the only way to reduce illegal immigration is to change the illegal immigrant’s status so they are happy in their home country and stay there (and gives various suggestions on how to accomplish that).

    Both agree that no positive measures will be taken because the rich corporate interests (who own the politicians) won’t allow it. They want the cheap labor.

    I understand and sympathize with these positions but I do not agree with them. They smack of defeatism to me. I’ll just repeat myself and say that I don’t want the perfect to be the enemy of the good; while my suggestions may not be ideal I would like to at least *try* to implement them. We should *try* to implement Joe’s too. But I am not willing to throw up my hands and admit defeat.

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