No Great Wall for Mexico

The U.S. should stress workplace enforcement of immigration laws instead of constructing barricades along the Mexican border. Pro or con?

Pro: Physical Obstacles Don’t Work

The U.S. experiment with border-focused immigration control has been an egregious failure. Upward of $25 billion has been spent on border fortification since 1993, but we have little to show for it beyond photo ops for anti-immigration politicians.

As reported in my book Impacts of Border Enforcement on Mexican Migration (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2007), interviews with undocumented Mexican migrants show that the U.S. Border Patrol apprehends only about one third of illegal immigrants on a given trip to the border, and of those, more than nine out of ten get through on their second or third try. Apprehensions of illegal immigrants along the country’s southwestern border have been declining since mid-2006, but that is mainly a consequence of our economic downturn and the fact that undocumented migrants are being bottled up within the U.S.

People-smugglers’ fees have more than tripled as tougher U.S. border enforcement has increased the demand for their services. Since 1995, some 5,000 migrants avoiding urban fortifications have perished as they attempted to enter through remote deserts. By making it more costly and risky for migrants to come and go across the border, U.S. policy has created powerful incentives for them to stay put once they succeed in entering. Families are therefore being reunified in the U.S., which means greater state and local government outlays for education and health services.

Migrants would not embark on life-threatening journeys if they were not virtually certain that a job awaited them on the other side of our fortified border. Most do not leave home without a pre-arranged U.S. job.

The average employer runs a higher risk of being killed by lightning than of being prosecuted for hiring undocumented immigrants. But a systematic, aggressive, work-site enforcement effort, coupled with a mandatory electronic employment eligibility verification system, is the only sure way to deter illegal immigration.

Work-site enforcement is not a panacea. Some hiring will be driven further underground, while black-market employers faced with higher risks will compensate by paying lower wages. But barring the workplace door is clearly a more humane and cost-effective approach than trying to stop migrants at the border.

Con: Prevent and Remedy

Using workplace enforcement of U.S. immigration laws alone is akin to contending with the consequences of broken levees in New Orleans rather than trying to maintain those levees. We must enforce immigration laws at the work site and also build and maintain a strong border fence if we are ever to succeed in reducing illegal immigration to the U.S.

The estimated 12 million illegal aliens in the U.S. constitute an all-time high in U.S. immigration history. And that number is increasing by another estimated 500,000 every year. This population competes for jobs with, and holds down the wages of, U.S. workers, while putting enormous pressures on our public schools, health care and criminal justice systems, and the environment. Illegal immigration makes a mockery of the most generous legal immigration system in the world, which admits each year to the U.S. more legal immigrants with a clear path to citizenship than the rest of the nations of the world combined.

There’s no silver bullet that can solve illegal immigration. At this moment, people in many countries are doing cost-benefit analyses to decide whether or not to pay a coyote, snakehead, or any other type of smuggler to get them into the U.S. If we are to defend our system of generous but limited legal immigration to the U.S. from being overwhelmed by additional millions of illegal immigrants, we have to tilt the balance of their cost-benefit analysis to "no."

We need to visibly enforce immigration laws at the work site and apply sanctions against employers who knowingly employ illegal workers. But we also need the physical deterrent of a strong visible border fence, patrolled and maintained by a professionally trained and adequately funded and staffed Border Patrol.

No fence is perfect, and a border fence doesn’t have to be in order to justify the investment. Any reduction in illegal border crossing is significant, because it’s always cheaper to prevent violations of law than to pursue, process, and prosecute after the fact.

Congress has already authorized and appropriated funds for the construction of border fencing. Let’s get it built!

Opinions and conclusions expressed in the BusinessWeek.com Debate Room do not necessarily reflect the views of BusinessWeek, BusinessWeek.com, or The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Reader Comments

Squeezebox

I used to be in favor of a fence until the Hamas people in Palestine blew up the fence to Egypt. It's easier to get rid of Illegal immigrants by denying them food than by putting up barriers. Save the jobs for those who enter legally. Why do people from Mexico think they have more rights to a job than people from India or Africa?

skshrews

Neither. How about letting people engage in the free movement of labor? If immigrants just fill out their paperwork at the border and identify themselves, then let them come and go as they please. Then if you are not documented, you do deserve to be arrested/deported.
Corporations can cross borders. Why can't labor?

Doug Terry at terryreport.com

A fence is stupid and a sign of failure. The policy of "catch and release" creates the need for the fence, since people can violate the border rules again and again with no consequences, other than the dangers of the crossing itself. The bigger problem, however, is the fact that Mexico is a society in which a very small percentage of people control all of the wealth. The incentive to leave and earn higher wages with the benefits of the exchange rate is overwhelming for the poor, because there is nothing close for them to do inside their own country. How can one of the richest nations on earth maintain a peaceful border with a poor nation like Mexico? Building a fence delays a day of dealing with the ultimate problems; it resolves none of them.

Ricky Bobby

I think we should do both. First, companies who hire illegal aliens need to be held accountable for breaking the law. The companies should be grossly fined and charged whatever deportation costs are of the illegals they hire. Second, the border wall was approved for construction. The citizens of this country want it built, so it should be built. One of the authors, Jan C. Ting, hasn't been paying attention since the Democrats sneaked in a bill that passed, which stopped the construction of the border wall. Last, illegal immigration is a major problem, and if you haven't noticed, you haven't been paying attention. If the millions here haven't taken your job, whose jobs have they taken?

Tish

Physical barriers do work, as has been proven near San Diego, where 14 miles of fence were built. After its construction, arrests of illegal immigrants entering the country in that area were one-sixth of what they were previously.

People suggest that building a wall is "stupid, a sign of fear, a waste of time and money," etc. In reality, however, it has worked in those places where fences have been built. Illegal immigration was greatly reduced.

To Doug, I agree with your statement regarding Mexico's society. However, as long as Mexicans are allowed to come to the U.S., there will never be an impetus for the Mexican government to address the problems in their own country. As it stands, Mexico gains much from maintaining a high number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. Remittances from illegal immigrants are the second-highest source of income for Mexico, second only to oil. American citizens are forced to see to Mexican citizens' basic needs, not the Mexican government, ensuring the few wealthy in Mexico can maintain the status quo. If you're truly interested in addressing the ultimate problem, you should keep this in mind.

You're right, a fence will in no way address the ultimate problems in Mexico. Neither will the system currently in place, and I would argue that it isn't our place to force change in Mexican society. Nor is it our place to allow millions--illegal immigrants and U.S. businesses--to break the law simply because they can make a buck. A fence would, however, ensure that more of those who need to exert the pressure for much needed change, Mexican citizens, will remain in Mexico to eventually bring about that change.

Build the wall, and aggressively enforce our existing laws. That is the only way to address this problem. Our immigration system isn't "broken." It simply hasn't been enforced as it was intended. Had it been, we would not be in the position we find ourselves in today.

dw

I have a better suggestion. Make it so that to get the business tax credit for labor, they have to be eligible to work in this country.

RN

If the U.S. is serious about stopping illegal immigration, all it has to do is have the courage to enforce laws on the book. Why waste spending billions of dollars building a scarecrow fence and security system? Just go to any street corner, pick up the illegals, and enforce the no-illegals work rule.

Linc Qimiq

Are you supporting the drugs and human smuggling from Mexico? And allowing 20 billion or more illegal immigrants to take over the USA when U.S. citizen are gone? No or yes?

If you say no, then let's build a 2,000-mile-long strong and tall wall on the border and a ban hiring illegals in USA.

One Old Vet

First, there's a fence in San Diego that refutes the author's premise entirely. Second, no single approach will ever be a panacea. However, until the borders are fully secured, nothing else will work. Comprehensive reform is a code word for amnesty and open borders. One step at a time:

1. Secure our borders
2. Enforce existing laws.

Then we can begin to discuss other options and issues. The above is not negotiable for 79% of America.

purebushit!

Send a dozen executives to jail for 1 to 5 years, and the whole enchilada disappears. No longer an issue, but these guys funnel a lot of money to our political parties. So you'll never see it happen. Ever notice how, for "a few pieces of silver" everyone escapes liability and jail? Nice work.

Chandra

The fence does work if it's done in the "right way." In Israel, terror attacks are down by 60% since the wall was built. Nothing is foolproof, but if the U.S. could stop 60% of illegals or drug dealers coming across, it would be considered a great victory. The fence is not just to stop illegals. We need to stop drug and human traffickers, too. A combination of law enforcement of immigration policies already on the books and the fence will greatly help the U.S.

Nina

skshrews,
If only immigration, permanent or temporary, to this country were as simple as filling out paperwork at the border and identifying oneself, people like me would be able to look forward to a future in the country we love and respect.

Thousands of families like mine have come to the U.S. on E2 investment visas (bought a business), because there is no other way to come here for Europeans who are not in the position to marry a U.S. citizen and don't have a job with a U.S. company.

I employ seven U.S. citizens, speak perfect English, pay taxes, etc., and I, and the other E2 investors, cannot apply for permanent residence. Our children--educated with tax dollars--have to leave when they are 21 and just about to become useful, contributing members of society. Some have been here since they were babies and are terrified of being alone in a country they don't remember.

America thinks of itself as welcoming to legal immigrants. The truth is, it is not. You say you want English-speaking people who will assimilate, but you make it impossible for us to come here. The only people becoming new citizens are Latinos. For the rest of us, the doors are well and truly closed, and we are stuck with leaving the country every two years to renew our I-94s and every five years we must return to our country of origin to renew our visas. We live in constant fear that the renewal will be denied, and cannot consider retirement as we have to leave if we sell our businesses.

Make it easier for people to come here legally, and illegal immigration will reduce naturally.

America needs entrepreneurs. Ask your Congressman to co-sponsor bill #HR2310 if you want more educated people with money to invest to make America their permanent home.
e2reform.org

logic

I agree with One Old Vet, albeit for (perhaps) different reasons. I rather like the Mexican people I've met, and their contributions to our society. Thank God our English heritage of bad greasy food and robot-like families is giving way to flavorful fresh Mex and warm family gatherings. However, the U.S. cannot continue to serve as the overflow basin for the world's excess population. We have finite resources, and much of the U.S. is already water-stressed. But the ability of Mexico, India, etc. to produce and export poor people is infinite. Every country in the world, including the U.S. and Mexico, needs to look at what they have, and take responsibility for good stewardship of the limited land and resources available to them. The goal for the U.S. should be to help Mexico create a reality where ordinary Mexicans do not feel compelled to flee.

Ashaley Smith

There is never going to be a "great wall." Honestly, I don't see the point of wanting to deport undocumented migrants. They do jobs certain people can't. With all due respect, someone with a college degree or even a high school diploma is not going to want to settle for the job of a field worker. Even if the salary would be higher than the average, I doubt that, even if it was $15 or $20, they would still want the job. It's a hard and unhealthy job. They pay taxes and work, adding money to the economy. There would be a deep, deep loss to the economy if the law passed to such a level. Plus most of them come for a better life, a new beginning. I see no crime in that at all. We are all human. We all deserve the right to dream and enjoy life wherever and however.

Linc Qimiq

Illegal immigrants are very stupid to break the law.

Chris

When it comes to immigration, basically, it all boils down to this. Americans are stupid.

Squeezebox

If the immigrants would stick to the jobs we didn't want, that would be okay, but they take the good jobs, too. Have you seen how many locals have been displaced from construction? High school kids can't find jobs at McDonald's anymore, because they've all been taken by immigrants. Not only do our kids not have the opportunity to earn money for college, but also bored high schoolers are much more likely to join gangs and deal drugs.

Afront

With age comes wisdom, well illustrated by the comments of One Old Vet. A "comprehensive" approach is needed when controlling illegal aliens. Fences in high volume areas, electronic sensors, increased border patrols (which might well be by the military given the numerous Mexican armed incursions), employer enforcement, and a zero-tolerance policy for repeat illegal entry (first violation is a misdemeanor and repeated ones a felony under 8 U.S.C. 1325). Denying public benefits but for emergency care and primary and secondary education for juveniles (which a U.S. Supreme Court decision requires) will go a long way toward encouraging illegal aliens to "self deport." Require taxpayer ID numbers for the billions sent to foreign nations and backup withholding tax upon aliens who cannot demonstrate having paid taxes on income earned in the US. Remittances might be taxed to cover the cost of emergency medical care provided to illegal aliens, the burden of which has caused hospital closings in border states. In deciding which lawful immigrants to admit, consider a point system favoring persons with needed skills, unlikely to be public charges, akin to the Canadian system.

Bernie

We will never solve this problem if we continue to feel sorry for the illegals who are breaking our laws. They are human, and some of them are really good people. However, they do break the law and they shouldn't be given a pass. We are enablers of illegality. Mexico will never clean up its act and provide for its own people. Illegal is illegal and everyone except the corrupt get hurt. Our laws need to be enforced and these people will self-deport. They need to work on their own countries to make life better for everyone there.

Murray Martin

All the blame does not rest with the immigrants. Much rests with those businesses that want to pay the lowest possible dollars per hour. I was on the human resources end of one of the chain stores and had a continuous line of applicants. The company paid the lowest hourly rate in the city, and Canadian workers continuously moved on to higher paid jobs.

The franchise owners of the chain were rich and getting richer on the backs of the low-paid employees. Now that store is full of immigrants. Although they're being paid the lowest hourly rate in town, it's better than where they came from. They are also used to being pushed around. That's the real story.

Joni

America has the most generous immigration policy in the world. We allow more people in each year than all other nations combined. Illegal aliens should not be given preference over the millions of other people who are waiting in line to legally immigrate to America.

Illegal aliens should not be favored over and above the interests and well-being of American citizens, especially the most vulnerable, the poor and undereducated. How is it that illegal aliens have some much power in America?

Bill

According to one source, there are 4.2 billion people around the world who are more destitute than the Mexicans. If we do not stem the tide, the U.S. as we know it will cease to exist.

zero

Keep all illegal Hispanics out of this country. They don't want to assimilate, and force you to speak Spanish.

zboy

Creating a larger fence between the U.S. and Mexico is a good idea. I think America is way too lenient toward illegals. In any other country, they would not tolerate the hordes of people coming across an unprotected border and mooching off social services and not paying taxes. Illegals take jobs from Americans, lower wages, and cause crime. Stop the nonsense, and build a fence.

Wm

Historically, the American Southwest belonged to Mexico. Many people in Mexico have relatives in the U.S. who have been assimilated into society. Many of the brave men and women who have joined the armed forces have been descendants of the marital union of Mexican and American citizens of many ethnic origins. So there is an undercurrent of feeling for the paisanos from the other side of the border. So this issue is permanently present due to the history of the great Southwest and will continue on forever. It is in the blood.

Jenny

We need both a physical barrier, the double fence that was originally voted through, and rigid enforcement. I don't buy the cop out about Hamas blowing up that wall on the Egyptian border. What was revealed after the fact was that it took them weeks to weaken that barrier. We also have technology capabilities that would increase protections of a wall and would alert the border patrol to any presence at the wall.

And to WM, the American Southwest never historically belonged to Mexico; it belonged to the native peoples of those lands. Neither Mexico's government nor its Spanish people ever owned the land. They attempted to seize it and to commit the genocide against the natives. They were against the native peoples of what is now called Mexico and Central and South America. Of course they attempt to commit revisionism, as though native peoples never existed, or at times they pretend to be indigenous, but it doesn't change the fact that they aren't, any more than it changes the fact that they, the Spanish, were the ones who created the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

I am an indigenous person, and I am against illegal aliens, open borders, and amnesty. I see the truth of what is going on. Racist, exploitative illegal aliens and their corporate controlled lobby want to profit by subjugating poor American citizens. We're not putting up with it, so get over it.

Pithy

Come on, people. This is a no-brainer. Punish the employers, send illegals home, and punish politicians by not voting for them--jailing them would be better if they cannot, or refuse to, abide by the laws of the Constitution to protect our nation from invaders. This is their job, so hold them to it. Send faxes every day to them. This is the only way they will get the message. Dems and Reps alike. When these 20 million get their amnesty, they will bring in 60 million more in 10 years, and this is minimum. You people just do not understand, but you will. Then you can cry some real tears.

Further north

There are no easy solutions. If there were, so many billions of dollars spent on the border would have made a real difference in stopping illegal immigration by now.

The challenge is in seeing the border issue in its full complexity. There is a heavy historical background between the U.S. and Mexico, the latter being the third trade partner of the U.S. (after Canada and China), and more than 80% of Mexico's exports are sent to the U.S. And these exports are not enchiladas or tacos. We are talking about auto parts, industrial components, etc.

The U.S.-Mexico ties are a lot closer than many people are ready to realize. The fact that the term "alien" is still used to describe people--again, "people" from the country just south of your border--reflects a lack of awareness of this reality.

A fence is an action to divide two neighbors, yes--to stop people from crossing it, no. You cannot divide what is so embedded culturally, historically, and geographically. I am just waiting for someone to say that the U.S. and Mexico are so "distant and different" that en effort should be made to create an ocean out of the Rio Grande so those people south or the border can then be considered from a different continent altogether.

My opinion is that it would be more effective and realistic to acknowledge the complex reality of the two countries. This perspective creates the environment to negotiate as equals (necessary to come up with a win-win situation) and design strategies that are sensitive to each other's realities.

I hope we can learn something out of the great effort made by the European Union to integrate their economies. Not so long ago, the French used to say that Europe ended at the Pyrenees. Now, the countries at the other side of the Pyrenees, Spain and Portugal, are thriving economies in Europe.

As any other Mexican, I have family living in the U.S., fully American citizens contributing to the economy of that great nation. I can see firsthand that the border issue has an effect in more ways in life than people realize.

My situation is different--living in Canada. Another great nation with different realities. Canada and Mexico are becoming closer and closer, realizing all the opportunities that can be seized by working together. I hope the U.S. can see beyond the fear of intrusion and engage in a conversation that its neighbors have already started.

zboy

We have too much immigration in this country--both legal and illegal. The country is becoming balkanized with many ethnic groups fighting amongst one another and having no loyalty to this country. Just look at the situation in California, where blacks and Hispanics are at war with each other. Many Latinos resent the "gringos," or whites, that have ruled this country from the beginning. Multiculturalism is destroying this nation.

Hexxx

The fence can work if the government is serious about it. One need only look at Israel's example and the separation fence that they built in the last four years. Although it is not finalized yet (see last week's Dimona homicide bomber attack), it works; nobody can argue to the contrary.

I do believe that Americans can do anything the Israelis can if they put their minds and hearts in it. The reality is that the government is in cahoots with the big businesses that need low-cost manpower, so they do nothing about it.

Whoever will be the next President, do not expect the government to be serious about immigration, so the chances of having an effective fence on the Mexican border are close to zero. The only event that can change this approach, like in the case of the Israelis, is a serious terrorist event staged from Mexico against one of the border state's major cities.

STEPHEN PODOLAK

Do fences ever work on borders anywhere? Yes, they do. Remember fences between Eastern and Western Europe? They were 99% effective and inexpensive. Give jail terms to personnel managers and landlords, and you will see the results. I am not against Latinos, but I am very much against illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America. Do not worry about the north border. Take care of south border first.
Steve

American

American politics is a dirty word. Our politicians are the most inept group I have ever seen. You change behavior by enforcing existing laws and holding businesses accountable. Simple, right? Not so in Washington, where money and influence corrupt the very people who originally enacted the laws to begin with. Additionally, the Mexican government plays a part in this bag of tricks. A country that borders the most prosperous nation on the face of the planet yet lives like they are in the Stone Age is an absolute abomination. Hell, let's put off the tough decisions until we have a major catastrophe. It seems to be the new American way.

Glenn Spencer

You can read an analysis of your report, written by the world's leading expert on the border tomorrow morning at americanpatrol.com.

Have a nice day.

Matt Lykken

We also need to keep good U.S. jobs from flowing out. See below:

Confessions of a Job Exporter

Say you owned the corner store and needed to hire one employee. Say further that there was a federal law providing that if you hired an American citizen for that position, you would be subject to a fine equal to 35% of your income. If you said, "OK, if that's the law, then I will hire a non-citizen," would you therefore be evil? Or would you be entirely justified in saying "If society wants me to hire an American, then they should change that law and not fine me for doing it"? The U.S. government does impose such a law, and multinational corporations face the shopkeeper's dilemma every day. That law should be changed

I am one of the people who decide to locate jobs outside of the U.S. Specifically, I am the head of tax for a U.S. multinational. It is my job to advise that high value manufacturing and research should, from a tax point of view, be located outside of this country. I advise that it is better to invest cash in foreign operations than in American ones. If the recent tax proposal of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rangel becomes law, I will advise that good administrative jobs should be moved out of the U.S. I don't like giving that advice, but under current law that's what the numbers dictate. I want to change that.

Of course tax isn't the only thing that governs the decision as to where to put operations. My company has a set of activities that we can afford to keep in the U.S. out of loyalty, but if we did too much of that we'd be acquired by another (probably foreign) company. For the rest of the operations, it's just math--add up relative labor and transportation costs and the cost of materials, figure in tax, and that tells you where to locate, excluding places with homicidal or corrupt governments. For the highest tech, highest profit operations, though--the ones that involve the best jobs--tax becomes dominant.

U.S. law currently provides that most income earned abroad is only taxed by the U.S. when you bring the cash home. So, if you make $100 in America, you only keep $65 after the U.S. 35% corporate tax, but you keep the full $100 if you earn it in the Dominican Republic. When you reinvest that $100 of D.R. cash, you can use the full $100 if you invest abroad, but only $65 if you invest in America, due to the U.S. tax bite. So you invest in new foreign operations, not American ones.

Changing the law to tax the D.R. operations currently would not work. America is not the only economy that counts any more, and most countries do not tax foreign earnings at all. If the U.S. immediately taxed foreign earnings, our companies would get acquired or crushed by competitors, and we'd just lose our headquarters jobs. Like it or not, it is a global economy now, and this country does not control it.

But there is a simple solution that works. Give corporations a deduction for dividends they pay, and make up the tax revenue by getting rid of special rates for capital gains and by imposing a 7½% tax on individual income over $500,000 a year, which is all it takes to be revenue neutral. That would make the U.S. the best location in the world for high value operations. It would restore our economy and give middle class workers market power.

There are plenty of proposals circulating for mostly hokey ways to stimulate our weak economy. The American people need to demand a real, long term solution. Change the rules so that I can tell my employer to put all the best jobs here.
Matt Lykken, tax attorney
Director
SharedEconomicGrowth.org

PAT

I have a great idea. Why not do both and just for grins let us do it like we really mean it? Naw, that is not complicated enough. Our government only does things when they have finally figured out the most complicated and most expensive way to do it. I wonder how much a sand castle would cost us if they decided to make it a national priority. Dream on.

Homero Velazquez

I think the USA must first put in order its own economy and then think about a reasonable proposal to Mexico. Making walls or any other obstacles will not solve the problem. Unilateral decisions always fail.
Homero Velazquez

James Diaz

The plight of illegal immigrants and the border fence is purely a last cry to our worst fears of global capitalism. This is happening in the UK, Northern Africa and Spain, only to name a few. The underlying reason is the same in all places. When corporations pick up and leave to set up in Mexico or India, who do we blame or complain to? Investors, including middle class working Americans, welcome such actions if our 401K accounts appreciate and we maintain our jobs. Obviously, wealthy Americans welcome such "strategic" moves because of their disproportionate rise in wealth. U.S. corporations are going offshore. How is it so different from foreign (legal/Illegal) labor coming to work in the States for jobs that have a low supply of domestic labor available? Aside from barriers to entry, the difference is that the latter affects our cultural and social makeup, which is the underlying tone of all anti-illegal immigration campaigns. This group will never acknowledge it. Yes, it is true they broke the "law" entering the country, so they can "intellectually" convince themselves OF not being racists. Regardless, we should give thought to opening the border to labor (on a monitored basis). At first thought, it sounds anti-American. But when you analyze the potential implications, I think the results will address the social and cultural dilemma America faces, but no one is willing to address for fear of being labeled a racist or forcing us to see ourselves in the mirror and see what we are really trying to achieve.

Jared

Building a fence that is capable of keeping millions of illegals out of this country would be way too costly.

A better solution would be to build two fences (like the ones we use at prisons) separated by a couple hundred yards. In between said fences, place land mines for the whole length of the border. In this way, we don't have to man our border, and anyone dumb enough to try and cross gets their just desserts.

At the same time, we create working visas for millions of people to work and live here legally for, say, three years. At which time they will have to renew their visa. They will all be fingerprinted along with the other bio-metrics the FBI wants. Those who violate our laws (misdemeanor or bigger, not renewing their visa) get kicked out. They can then re-enter by trying their luck in the minefield.

This would allow our country to secure its borders, still have cheap labor, and start collecting all the income taxes from these illegals and their employers.

No plan is going to work without securing our border. Period.

ColdFact

The borders have to be secured to better control the flow of illegal immigrants coming into this country. Deportation of all that are already here is just impossible. We are concerned about these people coming here and taking the $8 jobs that the majority of U.S. citizens don't even want to take? What about all people who are being brought here legally from overseas with $35K contracts to take the $80K+ from our people? How about the corporations that set up other countries?

Our situation with the illegal immigrants is a problem, but not as big as the problem with these corrupted corporations.

By the way, who is picking up the mess left by Hurricane Katrina? Who is benefiting from that?

Every time I pay with my credit card it reminds me of how easy it would be to get employers to not hire illegal immigrants. If there is no credit, my credit card gets declined.

There is a lot that we could do to solve this so called problem. But nothing will be done until there is no money to make out of it. Then the problem will be solved.

Ruben

This is nothing more then pro-illegal crap. Let's see how Mexico would treat poor Americans crossing their border. I read many stories about South Americans being arrested by Mexican police for the same crime of illegal immigration, yet the Mexican government
has demanded the U.S. obey its governments. Call for free access for all Mexicans to spread throughout the U.S. with no restrictions--yet if you are an American, you will be arrested and imprisoned for two years if not longer.

eyedoc

There have been many useful suggestions concerning how to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into this country. However, all efforts will ultimately fail because of a simple fact; populations of countries such as Mexico are rising faster than the ability of their societies to feed, clothe, and find useful work for them. I find it ironic and somewhat hypocritical that those who so fiercely oppose illegal immigration are the very ones who also so adamantly oppose the providing of family planning and contraceptives to the societies from which these immigrants come.

So long as the choice is between illegal immigration to the United States or staying home and starving, the torrent will continue.

Geri Smith

Hi. I'm one of the authors of the article. As many readers have noted, there is no simple solution for the problem of illegal immigration. Certainly, Mexico has to do more to develop its economy and to provide better jobs at home so that people won't risk their lives to go to the U.S. to work. But Mexico can't magically make its jobs pay five times as much as they currently do, to match U.S. salary levels. Some academics suggest that the U.S. and Canada, as partners in Nafta, should consider directing development aid to Mexico to help it create those jobs--just as the European Union does with new member countries. Spain and Portugal are good examples of countries that benefited from those transfer payments, and their economies now provide ample employment opportunities at home, eliminating an illegal migration problem they once had. Would Americans support this kind of aid, if it could only be invested in economic development projects?

Juan

Immigration, whether it is legal or not, is a global economic factor. Building a wall is a Third World solution; we could do better than that. How about a comprehensive immigration reform, such as the one proposed by senators McCain and Kennedy.

A great number of immigrants do not come from Mexico. Are we forgetting about the rest of the world? Plus, Mexico is our neighbor and economic partner along with Canada. We have the biggest economic block in the world. Mexico deserves more respect.

Finally, the Mexican government is working on a plan to increase the influx of capital to meet its employment demands, with free trade agreements with the EU and the Americas.

jetrayk

Those aren't just workers sneaking across the border. There are alarming events all the time that barely register in the news.

Nacho libre

If you want to stop illegal immigrants from coming to the U.S., please take the lead. Economics 101, demand and supply. Go to MacDonald's and pay $4 for your hamburger. Then go to the supermarket and for every pound of tomatoes, pay an additional $3. This process will encourage corporations to increase their wages so "real" American workers can take the back-killing jobs. Yes, nobody wants those jobs. Once you take the jobs away from "illegal workers," there will be no demand for us, and we will stop coming to the U.S. It's as simple as that. But I find it very hard to believe that most of you will like to pay extra for that delicious hamburger or head of lettuce. So admit it: You need us so you can keep that extra money in your pocket and buy some beer. Why is it so difficult for most of you to understand that those illegal workers are doing you a service? That is reducing prices on most vegetables, catering your parties, and providing services that otherwise most of you will not be able to afford. It is a fact that illegal immigrants do not get health benefits or any other type of government benefit. Yes, we do not receive stamps or money or enjoy any other type of benefit.

Erelise

I am a home-schooler debater, and after looking at tons of evidence, I think I have a few ideas that might help solve the problem.
1. Create a mandatory fine for each business that hires an illegal, and that money will be used to help pay for the wall.
2.Build a complete wall, making sure no illegals are hired.
3. Put up checkpoints along strategic points of the wall.
4. At each check point, the immigrant will take an English written driver's test. If they pass, they can go through, now having a driver's license. They also will be required to show their Mexican license, and using Mexico's criminal database will determine whether they have had any offenses. If the illegal has even one minor offense other than a speeding ticket, he will not be allowed in.
5. Deport all illegals already here because they broke the law. If they wish to come back, they have to go through the whole checkpoint again.

emmy

There are approximately 4 billion extremely poor people in the world. I have no doubt that a large portion of them would like to come to the U.S. for "a chance to build a better life." By 2050, Pew Research projects that there will be nearly a half billion people in the U.S., with the lion's share coming from immigration. Recent data also shows a turnaround in birthrates, which are now increasing in the U.S. The U.S. currently has the third-largest population in the world, and the fastest-growing population of any developed nation. I do not have children and will probably be dead when the population hits 1 billion, but for those of you who have never studied population biology: It's a very short hop from 500 million to 1 billion. For the posters who are worried about high prices for hamburgers without a steady stream of new low-wage-earners, trust me: You'll be more worried about how much you'll pay for a drink of water, if you can get it at all, in, say, California, when the U.S. population hits a billion. A large part of the success of the U.S. in its short history has been due to the small size of the population in proportion to the available resources. That is rapidly changing now, and there will be absolutely no way to control it if controls are not put in place soon.

Dennis

Mexico has existed as a nation as long as, or longer than, the USA, yet its people need to invade the USA for work and money. Enforce and deport.

Bizemployer

Hiring of immigrants--legal and illegal--is not only a matter of low-cost labor but also availability of labor as well, which in many cases is very tight. No fence is needed. Let us put a free market to work here. Any employer who wishes to hire "unauthorized" workers should pay a fee--equal to, say, the Social Security withholdings (on top of the regular SS withholding)--that could go into Build America Reeducation Fund and be used for training our workers to give them higher skills and education incentives. (I must admit my concern that first, our esteemed government will create a new department, then hire hundreds or thousands of workers to run the department.) If money is left over, build our infrastructure. Without adequate education and infrastructure, we will all be working for the Asian governments and Arab sovereign funds before too long. Let the immigrants get the opportunity and help our citizens in the process.

claudia

This is what the U.S. should do to address the employment of illegal immigrants:

1. Toughen sanctioning of employers caught violating the labor laws, with fines and jail time.

2. Create a national database that would require all hirings to clear one's Social Security number, identity and get clearance before hiring--to prevent hiring of individuals with bogus Social Security numbers.

3. Require all businesses to register all employees in the database.

4. Create a marriage/interface between SSA and the unemployment office to allow employment of illegals on a "bump" system that should allow employment of illegals as long as the legal workers are 100% employed. It is like creating a national staffing agency that would match the skills of the people seeking employment with available jobs as well as with jobs held by illegals and would allow bumping the illegals if a legal worker qualified for that job happens to be unemployed. The illegals should be let go, as this is part of their risk.

The burden to find and maintain a job in the U.S should be on the illegals as this is the risk they undertook when they set out on the journey for a better life.
No matter how hard things get for illegals in U.S., they will only stay here as long as it is better than at home. They will voluntarily go back home at the point when life in U.S. will become worse than the life they would have in their country. I guarantee it.

I am myself an immigrant, but I came in this country legally, from a refugee camp, where I qualified for asylum on my political views from a Communist country. However, I was legal because I qualified for whatever the INS criteria for immigration was in place.

Let's not confuse immigration with illegal immigration.

Richard

We need a physical barrier and an end to "catch and release." Let's institute "catch and parole." Take and store samples of the illegal migrant's DNA and finger prints. If he or she is ever found in the U.S. after their parole, they should face a mandatory 10 years in jail, followed by deportation.

Employers hiring illegal migrants should lose their license to do business for 90 days for a first offense, lose their license permanently for a second offense and face serious jail time for a third offense.

Unfortunately, the illegals have powerful support. Too many people make money from cheap labor and too many politicians gain votes from those who feel kinship with the illegals.

When those of us who feel that America is our home and that you can't break into our home just because you offer to be our housecleaner, maybe the term "American citizen" will mean something again.

Referendum

Following the the shadow of Ireland and New Zealand, the USA should stop the automatic birthright of citizenship. If your parents are not legal immigrants then you should not be afforded citzenship by birth.

Does this seem harsh? If I commit a crime and steal millions, and you send me to prison, do my children still get to keep the money?

RogerF

Wayne Cornelius wants to do nothing. Now why is that?

He is part of the lobby, which (like the Absolut vodka ad) believes that the southwest region of the US belongs to Mexico. What better way to get that than by demographic warfare. He is supported in this by the powerful Wahhabi lobby. They both share a common goal of weakening America for within. Undocumented immigration, expensive oil, and jiahdi terrorism are part of this marketing mix.

Any nation that can't control its border for long will cease to exist as one. See how aggressively the Mexicans tackle their illegals from Central America and you will see the hypocrisy.

Illegal immigration is an existential threat to this county but it is all about enforcement, or lack thereof. This is aided by the likes of Cornelius with their intentional circular analysis where no action becomes the best course of action.

Linda O.

It is really difficult to prove, but I have the impression that the original hope for NAFTA fell to pieces when the Chinese trade deal came to life--much opportunity for Mexico was lost to China. If I am right, then it should be no surprise that many Mexicans just kept going north.

If we had tied reasonable labor and environmental requisites to all of the trade agreements, then it seems to me that we might not be looking at so many countries with too little trickledown of the riches we helped them generate, and it might have played out differently in this country. I see nothing that has been done to assure that a rising tide raises all boats, thereby serving this country's need for export markets and keeping our own market vital.

At the same time, I am ashamed of this government for trying to avoid an honest, open dialogue about immigration, and leaving policy to fester and aggravate open wounds. When have you ever heard a meaningful, credible and informative political discussion about demographics? The so-called labor shortage in this country seems unbelievable to a great many people. At the same time, doesn't it seem strange that the crackdowns on illegal immigrants coincided with the bottom falling out of the housing market? I've always wondered who people think will buy their houses at high prices to fund their retirement when the demographics without increasing immigration do not seem to support that dream. Americans might do well to start thinking that Mexico could be the only place they can afford to live in retirement, so better not talk so mean. It wouldn't be a bad fate, if you can find a decent source of water.

I'm not a bit happy that this government seemed to practically invite employers to hire illegals, and for all I know still does except for contributions. A lot of energy has been invested by those who have tried to follow the rules. For all I know, Mexican workers might not actually realize that the "triad" vision has been cancelled, where North to South America and everything in between would become unified, following the lead of the European Union.

Bottom line is: I don't know the answers now that we're stuck with the situation, but I sure am tired of those who instantly do, and those who are uninterested in probing dialogue. How about some serious analysis of the effect of banishing 12 million or more people from the U.S. economy? Having our own Berlin wall does not mesh with the hopes I had for the 21st century. It is a problem that is symptomatic of what the world will face as resources are depleted, particularly if opportunity remains out of reach for many, and I hope that thoughtful publications like BusinessWeek will continue to insist on more discussion, whether our leaders are willing or not.

MILITARIZE THE BORDER!

Look, there are 12 million illegals and 600,000 cops in the country, so task every cop with arresting 18 illegals, and the problem is gone. Abolish birthright citizenship for the U.S.-born children of illegal aliens. Finally, allow Americans to execute citizen's arrests of illegal immigrants the way we can for criminals committing felonies.

S. Crewed

We need a substantive full-length physical barrier on the border with Mexico.

The U.S. Border Patrol has already found that, where implemented, physical barriers reduce incoming illegal traffic substantially. This traffic includes not only illegal immigrant Mexican laborers, but also drug smugglers (recently including a Mexican immigration official), people traffickers (who usually are also involved in extortion, kidnapping, counterfeiting, and ID theft), and the Mexican army, which in the last decade alone has made cross-border incursions numbering in the hundreds.

Will a physical barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border prevent all illegal traffic into the U.S.? Of course not. However, it will reduce this traffic substantially and with the highest level of cost-effectiveness obtainable with any possible action (or inaction) taken to resolve this problem.

kaloco

I only read about half of all the comments because it's so long. I think it's great that all of you express your opinions, because it is better to have an opinion that not everyone agrees with, than to not have one at all.

I understand it's hard to say exactly what it is we could do to fix all of the problems with our immigration system, but I don't believe in the ways in which things have been handled. Random raids are not okay, and the fence is bologna. We have wasted years and years, and loads of money on it. Today especially, how can we afford to build this wall? People say "How can we afford to let them come here?" How can we afford the way we plan to keep them out?

George Bush said a lot about immigration, and did quite a bit as well, but it's too bad that what he did wasn't effective. I give him credit for trying, but seriously, is it working? Do you know how many tunnels have been built? Does anyone actually have statistics that are accurate?

How is it going to help? Wouldn't our money and time be better spent fixing Mexico so that they won't need to come here? Think about it. If IMF or World Bank gave Mexico loans to stabilize their economy, wouldn't that be a much better use of money?

The first INA was written in 1790, and many drafts and amendments have been added to it since then. In 1965 a draft was passed that said we were ending the National Origins Quota system, and we did. It also said we would no longer exclude any one group of people from coming here. What the hell do you call the wall?

Obama agrees that the wall is not even close to being the best way to solve immigration problems, but he's thinking of finishing it anyway. And moving forward with new strategies. I disagree with finishing it. I think with our economy today, we can't afford to finish it.

We should come up with ways for illegal aliens to become legal, whether it be through money or working. They and their families should be able to stay here. If the conditions in their country were better, they wouldn't need to come here. Obviously Mexico can't fix itself alone, and we are probably one of the few countries who can actually help.

Just think about it. I have been researching immigration issues for years now, and more recently focusing on the wall. These are my ideas, and what I truly believe. You don't have to accept them, but respect them.

I_M_Disgusted

The double-layer fence that Congress keeps toying with needs to be built, period. One of our government's primary responsibilities is to protect us from foreign invasion, and 20 million highly reproductive people is invasion, not immigration!

Having said that, the other giant "magnet" that is never addressed is the decades of deliberate misinterpretation by our "representatives" of Birthright Citizenship. Besides all of the statistics that many here can quote, the matter of right, wrong, and the actual law have been glossed over for decades.

The Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment 2 years later, despite their legalese, clearly state that birthright citizenship only applies to parents who are subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and not subject to a foreign power. Obviously, foreign nationals illegally invading this country do not qualify.

Moreover, the actual author of the Citizenship Clause, Senator Jacob Howard, is on record as saying that automatic citizenship "will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States..."

Again, people owing allegiance to other countries who are trespassing in this country, breaking any laws they care to, and who take to our streets to protest our government with Spanish-language placards and Mexican or Salvadorean flags, are obviously not entitled to birthright citizenship!

Judy Pruitt

I agree with Rickie Bobby and One Old Vet. They have taken the words right out of my mouth.

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