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home : opinions : opinions
June 16, 2019

4/27/2019 7:30:00 AM
Our View
The time is now to build the wall
Gregg Walker and Richard Moore
Publisher and Columnist

In these polarized days, there are very few issues that afford our nation a chance to work together to achieve a real and lasting result.

Only on occasion do such opportunities present themselves, and, when they do, all of us should seize them. The accumulation of single steps makes for a long road forward.

Just such an opportunity is presenting itself right now, and on the unlikeliest of issues: the need for an impenetrable wall along our southern border.

We need the wall to secure our economic security; big business doesn't care about our economic security. We need the wall to secure our cultural and social security, given the amount of drugs that flow through our porous borders.

And we need a wall to help end the tragic and intolerable humanitarian crisis that is occurring along the southern border in human trafficking. We know that at least 30 percent of women are sexually assaulted on their way to the border, and nearly 70 percent of migrants seeking entry into the United States are victims of violence.

The open border is an open invitation to sex trafficking and the kidnapping of women and children. A wall alone cannot end the evil that is human trafficking, but it is a solution that will help at a pivotal portal for traffickers.

The thing is, many people across the political spectrum realize the need for a wall. The populist Right gets it, even if the chamber of commerce does not. The populist Left gets it, even if the socialist Left does not.

This point of agreement on the Left and Right gives us the opportunity to work together, if only we will recognize and seize it. It's hard to recognize because the mainstream media's daily crusade for impeachment overrides just about every other voice and issue, but, if we look, the opportunity is there.

Take the truly liberal columnist for The New York Times, Thomas Friedman, for instance. In a column this past week, he called for the wall to be built.

Friedman actually went to the border recently to take a look for himself, and what he saw there he called a "very troubling scene": Since October alone, he wrote, "along the whole southwest border, from California through Texas, there have been 190,000 apprehensions of 'family units' (a child under 18 with a parent or legal guardian) who crossed illegally from Mexico, up from 40,000 a year ago. That's an increase of 374 percent."

Migrants are also now flocking to open borders from as far away as Haiti and Africa, Friedman wrote, and it convinced him: "The whole day left me more certain than ever that we have a real immigration crisis and that the solution is a high wall with a big gate - but a smart gate."

On his trip, Friedman was able to see a five-mile stretch of new wall that has actually been built, and he liked what he saw on the other side: "Indeed, when we went out to the end of the new wall, if you peeked around to the other side, you could see that the Mexican homeowner there had planted trees and created a patio, right next to the wall - because he knew his backyard would no longer be used as a launching pad for human smuggling gangs."

Friedman adamantly - and correctly - asserts that a wall is not the only answer. He wants other strategies, and compromise, and he is pro-legal immigration. He still has no use for Trump's immigration policies. He knows that, by itself, a wall cannot ensure true economic and social-cultural security or put an end to human trafficking. But he knows it is a tool in the toolbox, and an effective one at that.

To be sure, illegal immigration and drug and human trafficking will not end until the larger global issues of economic dislocation and poverty in South and Central America are ameliorated.

In these areas, the Left and the Right will continue to disagree. Mr. Friedman, for instance, apparently believes climate change and extreme weather is driving dislocation and instability. But others on the Left and the Right know that illegal immigration has been driven by trade policy, particularly NAFTA and CAFTA, and our government's slavish devote to multinational corporations.

To put it simply, millions of Mexican farmers were driven from their lands after NAFTA because the United States gave huge subsidies to American farmers, who flooded the Mexican markets with cheap agricultural goods. NAFTA also paved the way for various low-cost retail giants to bully their way into the Mexican market, slaying tens of thousands of small Mexican businesses.

Guess where these dislocated people went?

The same goes for Central America today. Under CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement), over the past 14 years family farmers in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala have been buried beneath an avalanche of cheap U.S. imports. And the most extreme climate change there is the extreme environmental degradation caused by the lack of labor standards in CAFTA.

To say climate change is the cause of poverty and dislocation is quite like saying climate change caused a Midwestern family to freeze to death in an extreme winter because they lost their jobs when the factory left for Mexico and they couldn't afford to have heat in the house.

Even if climate change is real these days, it is only able to exacerbate poverty because our trade deals destroyed those nation's economic infrastructures and weakened the human infrastructure to the point it could not cope with any climate change, natural or manmade.

What's more, to embrace the Green New Deal and similar climate change policies would do nothing but drive those very nations ever deeper into poverty. Extreme weather would be a picnic in the park compared to the havoc those extreme policies would cause.

So the chasm between right and left remains large. The beauty is, though, we do not need to resolve our differences about the causes of illegal immigration to recognize that there is a crisis on the border and that a wall is one big part of the solution.

Mr. Friedman has made the leap (he did a while ago, as a matter of fact), and others are, too. Unfortunately, there are those on the Right and the Left who continue to deny reality for their own personal political agendas. On the Right, the Koch brothers support wide open borders - something even Bernie Sanders can't stomach - while, on the Left and right here in Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers's solution to the problem is to pull from the border National Guard troops who were helping protect it.

Apparently Evers doesn't see a problem with illegal immigration, and as far as those who make it to Wisconsin, he wants to double down and give them driver's licenses. This is the politics of pandering, when we need real leaders who are courageous enough to admit there is a problem.

Still, there is a growing awareness and courageousness, on the Left and Right, to acknowledge the problem at the border and the need for a wall. Those who recognize it should call it to everyone else's attention as loudly and as often as we can.

As Mr. Friedman wrote: "... in an era when more and more countries will fracture under environmental, population, criminal and technological stresses, we simply cannot take everyone who shows up at our border."

Now is the time to admit this, and to start with that high wall.

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