Jim Clark: Mr. Trump – tell us more about that wall (opinion)
Donald Trump promises that if elected president he will build a wall along our southern border and make Mexico pay for it. He has also promised to deport all illegal aliens although he seems to have backed off that threat.
I know a little bit about our southern border, at least the far western part, having lived in Southern California until 1992. As a school kid I used to earn pin money driving visitors along the shoreline to San Diego. Inevitably, guests would want to cross into Tijuana to buy souvenirs, leather goods and nibble on a street vendor taco.
Later, when I was a freshman at UCLA, my fraternity would dispatch me and my pledge brothers to Tijuana to buy Oso Negro gin. At a buck a gallon that potent cactus juice fueled a lot of college parties.
Later in the Navy I was assigned to ships home ported in San Diego as well as shore duty in that area. California, like Nevada, has a large Latino population, and I’m fortunate to have some lifelong friends of that ethnicity.
Here’s some border background: In 1821, on independence from Spain, Mexico acquired California, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico. In 1848, these territories were ceded to the US as spoils of the Mexican-American War but most of the Mexican landowners and their children remained to work their ranchos and farms.
After Placer gold and silver played out in California and Nevada, agriculture became the economy’s staple. Mexican laborers were invited north to help harvest crops so border traffic was only loosely monitored and then only at north-south route crossings.
A kind of reverse illegal immigration occasionally took place when Mormons fled to Mexico to avoid persecution for polygamy. Farmers and consumers got hooked on low prices owing to cheap labor and when the US entered World War I a transient worker plan called the Bracero Program was codified because American youth went to France to fight.
After the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the Clinton Administration imposed Operation Gatekeeper, the first serious attempt to deter illegal border crossings. High fences were erected at crossing points, the border patrol was beefed up, technology employed and illegals deported. President Clinton was also the champion of the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”). More on that in a minute.
Children of temporary workers born in the US are, under US law, citizens. As this population grew it began to exercise political power resulting in aberrations such as “sanctuary cities” and a growing rumble for amnesty for illegals who have lived here for long periods and contributed to the economy.
Meanwhile, as a result of NAFTA, manufacturers have established maquiladoras (production facilities) in Mexican cities adjacent our southern border where laborers work for $6 a day. Among them are Honeywell, Mitsubishi, Goodrich, Gulfstream, Bose, Electrolux, Bosch, Delphi, Lear, Boeing, General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, BMW and Mercedes Benz.
Another result of NAFTA is that US grown farm products are being shipped to Mexico and driving local agriculture out of business because they can’t compete with efficient US farming methods. All these goods have to get in and out of Mexico so transportation is itself a major industry.
So how about Mr. Trump’s wall? According to Smithsonian Magazine 650 miles of the 1,954 mile border are already walled; there are also many “tuneles” (tunnels) beneath the walls built by experienced technicians so the barriers are not too effective. One also wonders how the two nations would continue the brisk NAFTA trade if more obstructions are built.
Mr. Trump’s plan to deport 11 million illegals probably got trimmed back when it was explained that about 8.1 million are working and contribute about $24 billion annually in federal, state, local and Social Security taxes. The government estimates that 820,000 illegals are “removable criminal aliens.”
There’s your target, Donald.
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates. He has served on the Washoe County and Nevada GOP Central Commitees. He can be reached at email@example.com.