In January Patti and I were near El Paso, Texas on a short birding trip and saw the Mexican border Wall close up. On our first day we followed the border and Wall southeast for about 35 miles along the Rio Grande River.
What was interesting was that the Wall came to end about 30 miles south of El Paso (see picture below) where the pecan orchards flourished, the other geography harsh, and the spacing between houses on both sides of the border widened.
Thoughts from Jesus. Among the people we talked to in El Paso was a young, very articulate Mexican-American Uber driver named Jesus. When I asked for his opinion about “the Wall” and the proposed changes in U.S. immigration laws, he gave us a very thoughtful response.
Jesus said (I am paraphrasing here), “The government is totally wrong in thinking that many of the Mexican people sneaking into the country are criminals – just look here at El Paso where the crime rate continues to drop. What illegals are doing is working in jobs that most Americans don’t want – to Mexicans these jobs are valuable. Who will do these jobs if the border is totally shut down?
“Yes, some of the illegals have obtained false social security numbers and identities so they can do these jobs. Who cares, this means they and their employers are depositing money into the Social Security System that will never get claimed? Isn’t that okay?
“When Trump hears that Americans are mad at all the jobs being taken by illegal immigrants, I think he is misreading their anger. I think they are really angry with affirmative action and how less qualified minorities, some Hispanic like me, get the higher paying jobs instead of them. That is just not fair and I understand that frustration.”
“I don’t think they are angry with Mexicans picking vegetables, cleaning toilets, and mowing lawns.”
Thoughts from Jack. Another person on the trip, who I will refer to as Jack, was a businessman from Massachusetts, who was in the nursery and landscaping business. A Vermont native, Jack had gone out west to go to college and found himself in the landscaping business in the Tucson area before coming back to New England. He told me he often hired Mexican workers there and did make sure he got paperwork to support his hiring. Jack also admitted he didn’t ask a lot of questions and really didn’t do any verifications.
But it was the rest of Jack’s story that really intrigued me. Jack said most of these workers worked very hard and gave him little trouble. They came to work early, worked late, and were rarely sick. Many workers he believed actually lived in Mexico and passed through “secret tunnels” where they paid “tolls” to a secret Mexican tunnel manager. Some workers did this daily, while others might do this weekly or bi-weekly so they could give their families the cash they earned.
When I asked Jack where these tunnels were and why they were not discovered, he said, “Most of these tunnels are not out in the open as most Americans think, they are usually in urban areas and go under the Wall from a Mexican building on one side to an American building on the other.”
Jack then said, “Investing billions of dollars in a longer Wall across hundreds of miles of mostly desolate land is not going to curb the flow of illegal immigrants. Investing in ways to better detect tunnel activity will likely be much more effective.”
Interesting how no one talks about our northern border with Canada, which has thousands of miles of access with no wall. Here is a picture of a typical section of the U.S. – Canadian border with a standard 20 foot clear-cut section, which actually can be seen from space. (Go ahead, check-it out on Google earth.)
To make American great again, what we really need is leadership that can solve the real immigration paradox – How to increase and expedite legal immigration to help with growing U.S. labor shortages and keep terrorists out.
The solution to this paradox requires deep, intelligent thought and problem-solving, not just a longer Wall, which I’m sure seems like an easy solution to someone who has made billions of dollars building things.