An alternative to Trump’s wall
While roasting in the summer heat during a recent hike in the California desert, I found myself thinking of those men and women crossing illegally into America by way of the open desert along the border of the USA and Mexico. People risking their lives in search of work and a better way to provide for their families. I agree with Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and others who maintain that the flow of illegal immigration must stop; not only to protect the health of the American labor market and system of social welfare, but also as a means to stop the human tragedy taking place each year in the desert wilderness at our border. However, I don’t like the idea of building a nineteen hundred mile wall across the border, which seems a costly waste of time, money and human resources, when perhaps a more effective solution might be found.
At one point during my desert hike I sought refuge from the heat beneath the wooden trestles of a bridge supporting American’s Mother Road, Route 66, where this famous old highway crosses a sandy desert flash flood channel at a location midway between the California ghost towns of Siberia and Bagdad. At the time, my body’s internal thermometer was going nuts in the 95 degree heat, and telling me to rest for a while in the quiet shade of the desert arroyo. As I lay down beneath the bridge and closed my eyes, I imagined men and women walking through the same heat, perhaps at that very moment, along Arizona’s notorious El Camino Del Diablo ‘The Devil’s Highway’ which is the name for a remote and sparely populated region along the border where groups of illegals frequently attempt (and increasingly die trying) to enter America. As there are no developed roads in that area, I’m pretty sure there are also no bridges either where the illegals can rest in the shade. They are in it for real, and must succeed, turn back, or die. How can we stop them even trying?
My deliberations under the bridge suggested a three-part initiative which I think might help, and which may provide a better solution than building a 55 foot tall concrete wall at the cost of eight to ten billion US dollars. Even if we can get Mexico to pay for the wall, this effort constitutes an enormous waste of effort, which fact is already demonstrated by past precedent through efforts by the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, as well as conclusions by Republican leaders such as Jeb Bush who stated the following on the topic during his run for the 2016 Republican nomination:
“The cost of it is extraordinary, the terrain makes it impossible – it’s a great sound bite, but it’s not defensible in terms of a practical policy,” -Jeb Bush, McAllen Texas
What better use can be made of such an enormous sum of money as ten billion dollars? I propose the following as an alternative to Trump’s wall:
Better immigration laws and stronger enforcement to protect existing jobs; augmented by an increased minimum wage to make such jobs a going proposal for Americans; along with emphasis and spending on programs to move college-level public education curriculum on-line to become freely available to anyone in both English and Spanish.
The following is a breakdown of this proposal in terms of new and existing initiatives.
- Better labor laws and stronger enforcement
The US Citizenship and Immigration Service outlines clear penalties for employers who violate immigration labor laws. Below is a breakdown from their website outlining the consequences for immigration-related employment violations. Enforcement of these penalties is currently lax. Going after those who disregard these laws will cause employers to give second thought to offering jobs to anyone who cannot prove their legal right to work in the USA.
The United States government already recognizes the need to improve and strengthen existing immigration laws. This is evidenced in the Department of Labor’s December, 2015 update as well as White House efforts to encourage stronger enforcement of existing legal codes related to the hiring of undocumented workers (except below).
Strengthening Enforcement | The White House
“It means cracking down more forcefully on businesses that knowingly hire undocumented workers…most businesses want to do the right thing… So we need to implement a national system that allows businesses to quickly and accurately verify someone’s employment status. And if they still knowingly hire undocumented workers, then we need to ramp up the penalties.”
— President Obama, January 29, 2013
These and other efforts to improve the definition and enforcement of immigration laws, particularly as these relate to US employers who currently ignore or skirt these laws, should have a strong corollary impact on the hiring demand for illegals, which in turn will effectively dry up the market for such workers and stem the flow of illegals coming across our border with Mexico; arresting the tide with enforced legislation, rather than concrete.
- Higher minimum wage
America might actually miss the large pool of cheap labor which arrives from our southern border to take on jobs most American’s are either unwilling or cannot afford to do. How do we entice more American’s to accept these jobs while still allowing employers to operate a viable business model? The answer may be a living wage provided by a higher guaranteed minimum wage and an expectation on the part of consumers that they may need to pay a little more for some goods and services. $15.00 an hour is the new target set by some states as well as some candidates for federal office. Allowing this new, higher minimum wage will help American families get by while working to get ahead. The higher minimum wage is not a death sentence to business, as evidenced by similar high minimums already in place in the following first-world economies:Amounts shown below are national averages converted to US dollars at 6/17/16 exchange rates. Many of these countries also offer their citizens what constitute as benefits by way of national health care coverage, unemployment and family leave, and even productivity bonuses.
- Australia: $13.09
- France $11.08
- United Kingdom $10.84
- New Zealand $10.75
- Canada $7.73 – $10.21
- Germany $9.74
- United States $7.46
The current United States minimum wage of $7.46 is at the bottom of the list, where it has remained unchanged since 2009 and continues to fall in value against even modest inflation. There’s also room to rise in response to the changing face of the American workforce, where minimum wage workers no longer consist principally of high school students and entry-level employees. The Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California Berkeley has the following to say on this subject:
“Today, between 70 and 80 percent of minimum wage workers are above the age of 25.”
“…more than a third of the 2.2 million Californians now earning the minimum wage are parents.”
Raising the minimum wage to at least $12.00 an hour has been shown to work in studies performed in the United States and by way of the example of countries such as Australia, France and the United Kingdom. Doing so here will both provide a better living wage for American’s struggling to get by and also lessen the demand for work from undocumented workers.
- Free on-line learning
So what can we do with the ten billion dollars we don’t need to spend on a wall with Mexico? We may choose to better use this money improving our country by way of spending on public works, social services, paying down our debt; or perhaps we may choose to not spend it at all in favor of tax cuts. However, if we decide to do more than just cut off the flow of illegal immigration into the United States, if we want to do something to help not only our own citizens and legal residents, but our neighbors and friends in any nation, then perhaps we could use the money to develop new and better adult learning infrastructure to help anyone who wants to help themselves. Let’s move our college and university level academic curriculum on-line to become readily available, free of charge, in both English and Spanish, as a means of providing not just a hand-out to those in need of skills for better living, but a help-up towards the best form of self-improvement by way of education.
Death on the Devil’s Highway
Better labor laws and stronger enforcement
Raise the Minimum Wage