How to Make Mexico Pay for the Fence

In the course of a day’s driving, I heard National Public Radio claim repeatedly that illegal immigration from Mexico is nearly zero nowadays. But the non-partisan Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) reported in June 2016 that illegal immigration averaged 550,000 per year, up from 350,000 per year when President Obama won his second term. That’s an explosion. And at some point, immigration morphs into invasion.

I have strong opinions on the president’s immigration policies, partly because I lived directly on the Mexican border and have even lived inside Mexico. They’re good people, for the most part. If we have to be invaded, I’d rather be invaded by family-oriented Christians, like most Mexican adults, than by jihadis or atheists.

But I don’t want to be invaded. That’s not because I’m a xenophobe. If it is, I must be one of the best-traveled xenophobes on Earth. And it’s not because I’m bigoted or fearful of Hispanics – I’m the only non-Hispanic in my household, and I have voluntarily inhabited multiple Hispanic neighborhoods.

I’m against illegal immigration for some of the same reasons Cesar Chavez opposed it: it depresses U.S. wages, cripples labor law enforcement, and suffocates blue-collar trade unions in the cradle. But there are other reasons.

Invasion deprives us of our right to be us. Our mutual loyalties and moral consensus steadily dissolve. Homeowners feel ambivalent about taxes and bond issues that invest in communities long ceded to hostile, insular strangers. Young invaders often develop a contempt for their hosts in the communities they occupy. They are prone to litter and vandalize, to mark our private and communal spaces as their own.

There has been some debate whether “illegal alien” is a pejorative term. The favored euphemism is “undocumented,” which I reject because they do have documents. They’re just not American documents. The problem is not that they lack pieces of paper. The problem is that they are occupying our country without our permission.

Likewise, I reject the phrase “path to citizenship.” Illegal aliens are already citizens. They are not stateless persons. They are citizens of foreign countries, and they routinely appeal to their own consulates in the U.S. to intervene when they feel mistreated or excluded.

Our government’s paralysis has not been reciprocated by the Mexican government. The Mexican consulate in Los Angeles gets involved in California street demonstrations. It has confronted and threatened American citizens who have rallied against illegal immigration.

One writer quipped that the illegals ought to be called “undocumented Democrats.” And indeed Democrats have doubled down on illegal immigration as the future salvation of their party. With dependable ethnic bloc voting fortified by promiscuous naturalization of wave after wave of illegal immigrants, Democratic strategists are confident that they’ll be able to impose their will on the remaining red-state holdouts in perpetuity, even without amending the Electoral College.

Thus they are eager to relabel amnesty as “comprehensive immigration reform.” It is not reform of any kind. It is capitulation to a foreign invasion, not only of our labor market and social safety net, but our voting booths.

I am troubled not only by illegal immigration, but by high levels of legal immigration, and by the nature of that immigration. My primary care physician is an immigrant. Various surgeons and cardiologists who kept me alive over the years are immigrants. I’m grateful for them, and I hope they never leave America, but they are not the norm.

The massive influx of immigrants into the U.S. in recent decades was neither random nor spontaneous. The Mexican government has encouraged immigration by its least skilled and least educated citizens to our country. Although there is upward mobility for Mexicans after they arrive here, middle-class Mexican immigration is extremely rare. This amounts to an unspoken conspiracy between U.S. and Mexican elites at the expense of middle-class and working-class Americans.

The overall low quality of immigrants since the 1960s is partly an unintended consequence of our policy preference for family unification. It has lead to “chain migration,” in which immigrants determine who the next immigrants will be. We tend not to get the cream of the crop under that system. High achievers tend to prosper in their own countries, and stay put. Troubled adolescents and struggling siblings tend to get petitioned into the U.S. in hopes of a turnaround.

U.S. law has changed to permit immigrants to become naturalized citizens of our country without renouncing allegiance to the country they came from. This is troubling to those of us who have no plan B. America is all we have; it had better work out for us.

Should these tentative, conditional Americans get one vote apiece, just like us, if they keep their options open to revert to their alternate nationalities? Are they really Americans if their loyalties are not exclusively American? Alternative nationality, like an “alternative fact,” bears a strong resemblance to a lie.

Anybody who attended the soccer match between the Mexican and U.S. national teams in Chicago a few years ago knows that the immigrants who massed in Soldier Field are suffering no identity crisis. They’re Mexicans and they know it. No matter what their passports say.

I respect that. You should know who you are, and to whom you owe loyalty. Shame on us if we don’t know who we are, and if we don’t act in resolute loyalty toward fellow Americans.

Which brings me to “the fence.” If we don’t get a fence, I would like a refund on my passport. Do we really have our own country if foreigners can come in whenever they please? Of course we need a fence. Even if there were no illegal immigration at all, we’d need a fence to hinder terrorist incursions, and protect our border-area communities and ranchers from marauding criminal cartels.

It’s been disorienting to hear Democrats, who don’t blink at a $20 trillion deficit, gasp at the thought of spending $15-21 billion on a border fence. Suddenly they are deficit hawks.

But I do think the Democrats’ criticism of the president’s funding mechanism for a border fence is valid. A tax on imports from Mexico will be paid by American consumers, not by Mexico. If that tariff is part of a broader tax overhaul engineered in part to shake some money loose for the fence’s construction, then the fence will be funded neither by consumers nor Mexico, but by U.S. taxpayers.

Why not tax foreign remittances (via Moneygram, Western Union, bank transfers, money orders, etc.) from the U.S. to Mexico? This tax would be paid primarily by the illegal aliens who have made the fence necessary. These are admittedly solid, hard-working family men (give or take a few cartel soldiers and human traffickers). But they are nevertheless foreigners who have come to extract wealth from our people and send it away to their own. There is no ripple effect, there is no job creation, there is no investment in our communities with American money that has been sent on a one-way trip to Mexico.

Some of the tax burden would fall on legal immigrants and naturalized U.S. citizens from Mexico, who also have helped make the wall necessary by harboring illegals and encouraging them to stay after they arrive. They, too, are extracting wealth from our economy and sending it into the Mexican economy. If not, the remittance tax won’t touch them.

Is it a perfect funding mechanism? No. For one thing, there are free riders – like Central American countries that also send illegal immigrants north across our Mexican border. I would therefore favor applying the tax to foreign remittances sent to Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

We ought to consider continuing this tax after the fence is paid for. There will be continued costs for ground surveillance, Border Patrol flights and ICE enforcement at the illegal aliens’ places of employment.

We require drunk drivers to bear much of the expense of the government response to their law-breaking, whether therapeutic or simple incarceration. Why should foreigners invade our sovereign territory and be fed, housed and provided medical care in detention at our expense after they’re caught?

Why should we bankrupt our communities’ hospitals to provide care to foreigners who have no intention of paying their bills? I hope we’ll tax illegal aliens in a fair and focused way to fund the costs of resisting their lawlessness, and to defray the costs of humanitarian medical care for them and their families.

What of the president’s plans to staff up the Border Patrol and ICE? Didn’t he order a federal hiring freeze?

I recommend that he consider creating a reserve component for Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Border Patrol, to routinely augment full-time officers and to provide surge capacity – the ability to mobilize large numbers of trained, qualified officers during an enforcement crisis.

Our military is not the only organization with a reserve component. When I was a Civil Defense program manager, I remember some very capable, experienced FEMA reservists responding to our catastrophic weather events. Counties in California and Indiana train and deploy reserve sheriff deputies. Volunteer fire departments provide much of the fire protection and emergency medical response in rural America. Why not ask American citizens to consider stepping forward to protect our nation’s sovereignty?

I believe there will be an abundance of civic-minded volunteers, including many bilingual Hispanics, whose neighborhoods are disproportionately impacted by the Mexican invasion. The reservists would comprise a large, qualified pool of candidates for full-time vacancies, already screened and trained, with the necessary security clearances and performance evaluations.

If “sanctuary city” politicians or cartel-compromised Mexican officials mobilize anti-enforcement mobs against ICE and Border Patrol operations, the rule of law is unlikely to prevail without a surge of enforcement muscle. I believe a well-trained, well-equipped, well-supervised reserve component can go a long way toward restoring compliance with American law at our borders and in our workplaces.

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