‘Wall’ talk is silly

Published 7:52 am Friday, June 17, 2016

The Republican Senate candidates’ forum last Saturday could have been a good start for Senate hopefuls to get their messages out. But instead, each candidate was trying to put forward better sound bites than ideas. In fact, the immigration talk at the top of the forum contained few ideas at all.

Every one of the candidates seemed in favor of kicking out all the illegal immigrants. Every one of them seemed intent on building a wall. All of them used similar specious reasoning. U.S. Rep. John Fleming said at one point the U.S. spends more on illegal immigrants than it does on citizens, and he suggested denying all benefits to illegal aliens until they left.

Never mind that the idea of denying people medical help is inhumane, his suggestion would also violate court rulings and on top of that, his math is wrong. According to a 2007 Congressional Budget Office report titled “The Impact of Unauthorized Immigrants on the Budgets of State and Local Governments,” some states spend more on illegal immigrants than those immigrants contribute through taxes, but local and state spending is a “small percentage” of any budget. In addition, some states earn much more from the immigrants than they spend on them. Texas earned “$424 million or more” in revenue in 2006 from the illegal immigrants. This is because Texas, with no income tax, generates most of its revenue from citizens through property and sales taxes — taxes everyone pays.

For states that do depend on income taxes for revenue, a far easier and cheaper solution to getting that tax revenue would be to grant illegal workers amnesty or temporary worker status and tax them.

Some illegal immigrants already do pay federal taxes. According to the Social Security Administration, about half of all working illegal immigrants pay into Social Security. The population of working illegal immigrants in 2006 was estimated to be about 7.2 million, and most of these workers, even the ones contributing to Social Security, will not claim Social Security.

Even so, U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany suggested deporting all the illegal immigrants immediately. This is a fine idea, so long as you’re also fine with removing those 7.2 million paychecks from the economy. It’s true that illegal immigrants depress wages in select, low-skilled areas, but economists have pointed out that these cost savings have been passed on to everyone else through reduced costs in farm labor and construction. Granting amnesty or temporary worker status to these workers could fix the problem of low wages as well as generating more taxes.

Beside the fictions behind the need for mass deportation, the fiction that we need a wall is perhaps the most risible of all the nonsense.

Trump himself has said his wall will cost about $12 billion dollars, but according to the Washington Post, the wall will cost something closer to $25 billion, and that doesn’t include maintenance. Meanwhile, NASA’s annual budget is about $17 billion. And cost aside, the federal government will likely have to seize private ranch land across our Southern border via eminent domain to build the wall.

All of this ignores the fact that half the illegal immigrants came here legally and overstayed their visas. All of this ignores the fact that, since 2000, illegal immigration from Asia has been outpacing migration from south of the border.

This ignores the fact that, according to the Pew Research Center, the population of illegal residents in the U.S. has been holding steady at about 11.3 million for the past five years.

But then, a firm grasp of reality might not get you elected.

Jesse Wright is the managing editor of The Daily News. You can email him at jesse.wright@bogalusadailynews.com or call him at 985-732-2565, ext. 301.