Yes: Even Merkel admits wide-open immigration was a mistake
President Trump’s first few weeks in office have been exhilarating. Among the many positive outcomes is a renewed interest concerning the importance of border security.
While nearly all of us would agree that some level of border protection is required, there is much disagreement about how far such protections should be taken.
The Trump administration, though, has made it clear that it believes strong border security is indispensable to the well-being of any sovereign nation. A country that cannot control its borders cannot maintain order and security for its citizens, the administration has rightfully argued.
Borders are integral to the systems that direct the flow of goods and services and people into and out of a country. Border controls are designed to maintain the strength and safety of a roughly homogenous group of people who have agreed to live together under a set of rules.
A lack of border integrity results in vulnerability, and the consequences of little to no border security are evident all over the globe. Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Afghanistan are all examples of countries with inadequate border protection.
In those countries, terrorists and refugees have flooded across borders. Guns and munitions have done the same exact thing. And as a result, those countries are considered failed nation-states.
Failed nation-states are characterized as countries whose central governments no longer have the capacity or capability to maintain economic and physical order in significant parts of their geographies.
Even countries in Western Europe have witnessed a drastic decrease in economic stability and physical security with eroding border security.
The vast influx of refugees from Northern Africa and the Middle East into countries including Germany, Belgium and France has resulted in deadly terrorist attacks and deterioration in cultural homogeneity.
Germany’s Prime Minister Angela Merkel openly admits that radical Islamic terrorists pose a risk to her homeland. Some approximate that more than 400 individual threats have infiltrated Germany because of the lack of border control.
It is fundamental that the United States not make the same mistakes that other countries have and continue to make.
We must strengthen and uphold our own border security. The southern border has been ignored for years. While many have crossed our borders for economic opportunity, the lack of an effective and locked border now forces the U.S. to deal with 11 million undocumented individuals living in this country.
The predicament grows when Dreamers, or individuals who were brought to the United States illegally as young children, are inserted into the equation.
Many identify the U.S. as their only home. How should the U.S. deal with the Dreamers, youngsters who by birthright have full rights but whose parents do not?
These are complicated and emotional issues.
However, the flood of traffic across our borders includes not only those looking for a better future, but also drug and criminal cartels and terrorists.
The threats are momentous, and it is time to restore border integrity in the United States.
Our immigration system is broken. We mustn’t close our eyes and ignore the predicament. It will only continue to grow.
If the federal government had properly reformed and implemented the immigration legislation of the 1980s, the United States today would be safer and have secure borders.
The problems that continue to confront and divide this great nation would not exist to their current degree if our legislators took the necessary precautions to properly defend our borders.
Consequently, two major issues confront America today: implementing a strong and workable border system, and dealing with the tragic outcome of 30 years of failed border policy.
These are two separate dilemmas and should be considered accordingly.
The United States should come together in its efforts to halt the repetition of history. Nothing less than our sovereignty is at stake.
No: No wall could hurt Mexico as much as NAFTA has
President Trump is unlikely to fulfill his dream of forcing Mexico to pay for his proposed wall along the United States’ southern border.
If it were built, though, U.S. taxpayers would almost certainly foot the bill, the cost of which some have estimated could surpass $50 billion.
With that said, it’s worth taking a step back to look at the economics of U.S.-Mexican relations to see how immigration from Mexico even became a political issue someone like Trump could use to his advantage.
The North American Free Trade Agreement, commonly called NAFTA, is a good starting point.
While it is finally widely recognized that so-called free trade agreements have harmed millions of U.S. workers, thought leaders from both sides of the political spectrum continue to assume NAFTA has been good for Mexico. This assumption is forcefully contradicted by the facts.
If we look at the most basic measure of economic progress, the growth of gross domestic product, or income per person, Mexico, which signed on to NAFTA in 1994, has performed the 15th-best out of 20 Latin American countries.
Other measures show an even sadder picture. The poverty rate in 2014 was 55.1 percent, an increase from the 52.4 percent measurement in 1994.
Wages tell a similar story: There’s been almost no growth in real inflation-adjusted wages since 1994 — just about 4.1 percent over 21 years.
Why has Mexico fared so poorly under NAFTA?
Well, it must be understood that NAFTA marked a continuation of policies that began in the 1980s under pressure from Washington and the International Monetary Fund, when Mexico had been left particularly vulnerable from a debt crisis and world recession.
These policies included the deregulation and liberalization of manufacturing, foreign investment and ownership — 70 percent of Mexico’s banking system is now foreign-owned.
Mexico also moved away from the pro-development policies of the previous decades toward a new, neoliberal prescription that tied Mexico ever more closely to its northern neighbor and its questionable ideas about economic development.
The purpose of NAFTA was to lock in these changes and policies in an international treaty so that they would be more difficult to reverse.
It was also designed to add special privileges for transnational corporations, like the right to sue governments for regulations that reduced their potential profits — even those dealing with public health or environmental safety. These lawsuits are decided by a tribunal of mostly corporate lawyers that is not bound by precedent or any national legal system.
About 2 million net jobs have been lost in Mexican agriculture, with millions more displaced, as imported subsidized corn has wiped out small farmers. From 1994-2000, immigration to the U.S. from Mexico increased by 79 percent, before dropping off in the 2000s.
Now, about that wall: If the Mexican economy had just continued to grow post-1980, as it did for the two decades prior, Mexicans would have an average income at European levels today. Very few Mexicans would take big risks to live or work in the U.S.
But growth collapsed after 1980 under Washington’s failed experiment.
Even if we look just at the 23 years post-NAFTA — the much better years — GDP per person has grown by just 29 percent, a fraction of the 99 percent growth Mexico saw from 1960-80.
The wall would cause significant environmental and economic damage, if it were ever built. But it is the long-term damage that Washington has helped visit on the Mexican economy that has brought us to the point where a U.S. president could even propose such a monstrosity.
A former chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, Pete Hoekstra is a senior fellow at the Investigative Project on Terrorism. Readers may write him at IPT, 5614 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 34, Washington, DC 20015. Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C., and holds a doctorate in economics from the University of Michigan. Readers may write him at CEPR, 1611 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20009.