The observations in Jason L. Riley’s Wall Street Journal column approximate my own views on border security and immigration:
A wall would have some deterrent effect but probably not much, and critics are correct when they argue that there are better ways to spend border-enforcement dollars. Today, the majority of people who settle in the U.S. without authorization arrive legally and then overstay their visas. According to a Center for Migration Studies report last year, these “overstays” have outnumbered illegal entries every year for the past decade—a problem more fencing doesn’t address. Still, Bismarck was right: Politics is “the art of possible, the attainable,” and a wall may be what is necessary to advance immigration reform while Donald Trump is president, or even after he’s left office.
A national Bipartisan Policy Center survey on immigration released in July concluded that the “consensus set of immigration policies that Americans support is more to the right than many realize.” “Most Americans believe that the current system is broken, out of control, and antiquated,” reads the summary. “They don’t feel that anyone is controlling the process or supervising who enters the country legally, and they think that insecure borders make it easier for people to come to the United States illegally.”
Moreover, a larger percentage of survey respondents approved of a wall (48%) than disapproved (41%), which is consistent with other recent polling on the enforcement of immigration laws. A Quinnipiac University poll from April asked, “Do you think that undocumented immigrants illegally crossing the border with Mexico is an important problem, or not?” Seventy-one percent of respondents said yes.
Note that this was before the country witnessed mobs of Central American migrants rushing the border trying to force their way in. The bottom line is that a majority of voters have views on border security that are much closer to Mr. Trump’s than many liberals want to admit. The Democrats ignore these concerns at their own peril. Ask Mrs. Clinton.
It also precedes the recent deaths of children taken into custody by ICE. I don’t know whether opinion has shifted or will shift.
Where I disagree with Mr. Riley is that there is any compromise to be had on immigration and border security. I think that the Democrats, particularly the House Democrats, will reject any plan that doesn’t include something that is effectively amnesty for people already in the country illegally and Republicans will reject any plan that could be characterized as amnesty. It’s an impasse. It has been an impasse for decades. It will remain an impasse.
The immigration reform that was enacted in 1986 amounted to legalization now, enforcement later. Events have demonstrated that we can reasonably conclude that was ineffective. It ran afoul of moral hazard and employers were able to escape punishment for hiring workers without legal status because all that was required of them was plausible deniability.
Our present policy such as it is is gravely immoral. The continuing, reasonably dependable supply of new workers who will work for minimum wage or less keeps wages low for native-born Americans, particularly blacks, and previous cohorts of immigrants. It also enables business models depending on these continuing low wages. It’s one of the reasons for increasing income inequality. Our present inability to arrive at any compromise is a tragedy.