When I was younger, maybe five or six, a backyard neighbor put up a fence. I watched the gray haired gentleman with a yard overflowing with flowers slip wooden posts into the ground.
I asked him what he was doing. I then asked why he’d put up a fence? While he likely wanted to say “to keep annoying kids away” he instead said, “to keep rabbits out of the yard.”
At such a young age I didn’t know why someone would want to keep fuzzy little bunnies out of their yard. But I watched the fence go up and, now that I think of it, that might have been the last time I ever talked to him.
Needless to say, I never got to know him or his wife. And as I grew older I discovered those neighbors were more or less jerks. Or snobs. Or some combination of the two.
One of the other backyard neighbors didn’t have a fence. Neighbor Bill. He was a nice old man whose wife had recently died. He gave me my first baseball glove. One of those old school flat gloves that haven’t been made in half a century (I still have that glove).
We’d play catch, practice grounders, drink lemonade after, and just kind of talk baseball. I’d invite him to baseball games as I joined teams. He came to my high school graduation open house.
Now, I’m not trying to compare a backyard fence to our country’s southern border situation. Because there’s no comparison. But this little story flooded my memory as I thought about how fences and walls had influenced my life.
The life of an average Joe who’s going to solve the border wall crisis.
It’s More Than A Wall
I live in Arizona.
I’m from Michigan.
Two very different border states.
In Michigan, Canada offered to pay for a second bridge running from Windsor to Detroit.
In Arizona…well, you’ve already heard who will be “paying” for the wall.
The thing is, the situation is so much more complex than building (or not building) a wall.
For starters, anyone who thinks putting up a wall will suddenly solve illegal immigration and drug trafficking is delusional.
The drug trade coming up from the south is a multi-billion dollar industry. So the idea that an illegal business will shut down because someone put up a fence is absurd.
However, the notion of a wall not helping in any way is also off base.
Crossing the border has never been the problem for most illegal immigrants. It’s the six or more days of walking through the desert without food or water that is.
So a border wall would, in all likelihood, reduce the number of fatalities from those looking to cross the border on foot.
In the news, there have been stories of young children dying while in the care of Border Patrol agents.
Attempting to rest the blame on these agents is unfounded. They didn’t kill the children. Their bodies shut down and started to devour itself internally from the lack of water.
Realistically a wall would reduce these numbers.
And I, personally, don’t believe there’s a real connection between a wall and racism. I’ve seen plenty of posts attempting to connect the two because a KKK leader wanted a wall for some reason decades ago.
Are there people who are racist toward Latinos and Hispanics who want the wall? Of course. But realistically the construction of a wall at a national border isn’t meant, I believe, to be racist.
The Border Patrol was initially created to prevent Chinese immigrants from flooding California during the gold rush and while the railroad was under construction. So the department (which has gone through a number of names), has evolved and it’s never been just to “keep Mexicans out.”
But Human Trafficking and Smuggling Would Likely Increase
Human trafficking at the southern border saw a major increase following 9/11. Prior to the terrorist attacks, the border crossing was laxer. Immigrants would cross in order to find work for the season, then travel back home.
However, after 9/11 the borders saw an increase in security and flooding of new agents (often hastily trained). This increased the cost of hiring a coyote to lead crossers over the border. It became so expensive that workers couldn’t afford (or risk) crossing back and forth. They had to leave their family and stay in the States.
With the difficulty of walking across the border increasing, human trafficking picked up. Individuals with nothing to their name would save and borrow thousands of dollars to be packed like sardines in moving trucks or any number of other vehicle types.
In the United States, people freak out if a dog is left in an 80-degree car for 10 minutes.
Now picture being in the back of a van with 40 other people without AC or even air circulation for a day (or more).
If a border wall is constructed, human trafficking will likely increase, as the business for it will balloon.
So realistically, the only real way to slow down illegal immigration, human trafficking, and the drug trade, is to get down to what’s causing people to want to flood into the United States in the first place.
The Need For Providing For Families
I’ve lived in a number of states. In a few months, I’ll add another state to the list. Yet never once when telling people where I’m from have I been told, “oh, you just moved here. You must be a criminal.”
So why is it people assume illegal immigrants are all criminals?
Latin American, and especially Hispanic cultures, are heavily family oriented. It’s not just one person providing for the family. It’s often the entire family providing for the family.
When someone pays thousands of dollars to ride in the back of a U-Haul in order to pick grapes, it’s not because they are a criminal. It’s because they want to provide a better life for their family.
The American dream is to have a big house and a car and a great job. The Mexican dream is to provide for the family.
So to really, and I mean really solve the border issue, it’s necessary to look at wages in Mexico.
The thing is, Mexico is a poor country. So trying to force the Mexican government to mandate a minimum wage increase is hypocritical.
Realistically, the U.S. needs to help, as due to Dollar Diplomacy in the early 1900s the United States laid the foundation of many of Mexico’s problems going on today (not all, and that’s a much longer and complex history lesson).
But what can a country trillions of dollars in debt do to help?
Bring back a worker program used during the Second World War.
During the Second World War, a good chunk of the American workforce went to Europe and the Pacific to fight. Many who stayed shifted their work to support the war effort.
But that still left crops and other everyday jobs open and in need of filling.
To help, bus after bus of Mexican workers were brought up to annually help on farms, pick crops, and perform other jobs.
At the end of the season, busses would either transport the workers to other areas of the country to harvest a different kind of crop, or they would be taken home.
Towns that celebrated the annual coming of Mexican workers in the 1940s and 50s now openly shun such workers today.
And whether anyone wants to accept the fact or not, the United States agriculture system heavily depends on illegal aliens, as the labor is cheaper and keeps the price of produce down.
If all illegal immigrants were suddenly banned, the cost of everything from Michigan apples to Florida oranges would skyrocket. And for anyone who thinks an illegal immigrant didn’t have anything to do with their produce, unless they are growing it themselves they are dead wrong.
So why not bring back the seasonal worker program?
Let individuals apply for the program through the Mexican government, and because the U.S. will want its hands in it let the U.S. vet these individuals.
Will there be bribes? Sure.
Will there be some funny business going on? Most likely.
But by giving individuals who would normally spend thousands of dollars in the attempt to cross the border (it’s not illegal in Mexico to cross the border) the opportunity to work, and then come back home, the United States would instantly slash its illegal immigration problem while reducing the cost of search and rescue operations conducted by the Border Patrol.
But, Wasn’t NAFTA Suppose to Help?
NAFTA was touted as a way to make free trade easier throughout North America.
In reality, it was a way for Canada and, more specifically, the United States, to take advantage of the cheap workforce and nearly non-existent environmental regulations in Mexico.
Basically, NAFTA is Dollar Diplomacy 2.0.
Originally, many of the factories for General Motors, General Electric, Samsonite, and others went up in border towns like Nogales and Ciudad Juarez.
The idea was to cut down on the cost of manufacturing while keeping it as close to the U.S. as possible.
The problem for manufacturers was it was too close to the U.S.
The lack of environmental regulations led to all kinds of toxic waste running off into local water systems. A cancer epidemic spread through Nogales, Arizona, because of the manufacturing plants in Nogales, Sonora.
So American journalists started to snoop around.
Also, wages paid in these factories hovered around $40 a week. These were the same jobs American union workers would receive that same amount of pay after two hours, not to mention extensive healthcare, discounts, paid time off, legal assistance, and all sorts of other benefits.
Because the plants were under the watchful eyes of Americans, manufacturers started to take plants south, where they could pay workers less and not worry about giving cancer to American citizens.
The Problem is a Two-Way Street
Often the border problem is viewed as a one-way street.
I have entered Mexico in two different locations: Nogales and Juarez.
At both border crossings, there is a flooding of signs saying “no guns” and other, similar variations.
It’s not that anyone is worried that I’d walk in with a six-shooter attached to my hip.
It’s because Americans are selling their guns in Mexico.
While drugs are pouring into the United States, American guns are flooding Mexico.
In fact, 70 percent of all Mexican cartel firearms seized were purchased legally in the United States.
That’s another layer of the gun debate, but as this is not a gun-issue article I won’t dive into it.
And yet it’s necessary to point out that to truly solve the border problem it’s critical to do something about the American gun problem.
Because these guns are being sold to Mexican cartels and are being used to kill not only rival cartels but also innocent civilians who are at the wrong place at the wrong time.
And all of this is because of America’s fixation with blow, heroin, and other heavier drugs.
So How Do We Fix the Border Problem?
Outside of waving down Doc Brown and taking a trip back to 1885 to prevent Dollar Diplomacy from setting us on the course we’ve been on for over 100 years, I don’t know if we’ll ever completely fix the issue.
However, there are some starting points we can follow to make it better.
1. First, do we build a wall?
Sure, why not. Cost aside, it really would help certain aspects of the border situation.
2. Bring back the seasonal worker program. This keeps production costs down in the United States, pays Mexican workers a good wage, and reduces the influx of illegal immigrants spending thousands of dollars to be transported into the U.S.
3. Pushing the Mexican government to increase worker minimum wage is likely not something that will happen. However, forcing American companies to pay increased wages in Mexico is something the U.S. government might be able to do. More people making decent wages means fewer will want to leave their homes. It also means less people will be pressed into joining the drug trade.
4. Improve gun laws.
I’m not talking about taking guns from people, because I know some of you would need to be cold and dead before the gun is pulled from your hands.
I’m saying improve the background checks for purchasing guns and require additional permit requirements for anyone looking to purchase more than a set number. Because when someone walks in to buy a dozen AR-15s or AK-47s, it should set off some red flags.
5. Lastly, and probably the most difficult step, is to find a way to cut down on drug imports, which means keeping people from using certain drugs.
And yes, some addictions are the fault of the American government. The United States wanted to destroy poppy farms in Mexico during the first half of the 20th century, but then it started to buy up opium and ship it to Europe to be used as morphine during WWII.
Honestly, this is the step I’m not sure how we change. I have friends who have done enough blow in their lifetime they’ve likely directly funded the murder of a half-dozen Mexican civilians.
But who knows, maybe if we can manage the other steps we’ll be able to figure out this one.
There’s no reason why Mexico can’t be our friendly neighbors to the south.
While we might never put on our gloves and play catch together, it doesn’t mean we can’t correct past errors and work towards the future.