Immigration reform is a legitimate policy priority for any presidential candidate. The real question is how do we create an effective and humane immigration policy? Donald Trump has offered a ten point immigration plan. The task of our next posts is to assess the merits and demerits of his plan.
Trump’s immigration plan is featured on his campaign website. The ten points are:
1. Begin working on an impenetrable physical wall on the southern border, on day one. Mexico will pay for the wall.
2. End catch-and-release. Under a Trump administration, anyone who illegally crosses the border will be detained until they are removed out of our country.
3. Move criminal aliens out day one, in joint operations with local, state, and federal law enforcement. We will terminate the Obama administration’s deadly, non-enforcement policies that allow thousands of criminal aliens to freely roam our streets.
4. End sanctuary cities.
5. Immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties. All immigration laws will be enforced – we will triple the number of ICE agents. Anyone who enters the U.S. illegally is subject to deportation. That is what it means to have laws and to have a country.
6. Suspend the issuance of visas to any place where adequate screening cannot occur, until proven and effective vetting mechanisms can be put into place.
7. Ensure that other countries take their people back when we order them deported.
8. Ensure that a biometric entry-exit visa tracking system is fully implemented at all land, air, and sea ports.
9. Turn off the jobs and benefits magnet. Many immigrants come to the U.S. illegally in search of jobs, even though federal law prohibits the employment of illegal immigrants.
10. Reform legal immigration to serve the best interests of America and its workers, keeping immigration levels within historic norms.
We will break up his plan into three parts and test the strength of each component.
It should be said upfront that Trump can accomplish measures 2, 3 and 5 quite easily.
Building an Impenetrable Wall
We will begin with the current facts about the border. The US-Mexico border is approximately 1,900 miles long. About 650 miles of the border is covered by some form of fence or other structure. Trump thinks his border will require him to wall 1,000 miles and natural obstacles will cover the rest.
Building the wall is fraught will difficulties. First, there is the question of materials. The wall will require 339 million cubic feet of concrete if concrete is the material of choice. This estimate assumes the wall will be buried five feet deep and 20 feet high. Obviously, more resources will be required with any expansion of this project.
Second, the price for such a wall seems exorbitant. A conservative estimate of the cost of the wall is $12 billion.
Third, topographical problems exist because the wall will have to pass through remote desert area in Arizona and rugged mountains in New Mexico for two-thirds the length of the wall.
A 20 foot high wall will do little to stop immigrants from entering the U.S. because immigrants can simply dig underground. Immigrants took this measure in order to negotiate a 30 foot wall in Nogales, Arizona.
Digging the wall deep underground may do little to prevent drug smugglers because they dig tunnels into drainage systems. If that is not enough, some tunnels go as deep as 90 feet. A 90 foot deep wall will take us well beyond any feasible budget.
Here is CNN’s Anderson Cooper navigating a 80-90 feet deep tunnel.
Perhaps technological advances might do the trick. Problems persist even for this measure. Our technology often can’t differentiate between tunnels and underground cracks, water tables, tree roots, and caves. Our technology is not effective at the 90 feet depth we mentioned earlier.