“Build the wall! Build the wall!” Supposedly nobody builds better walls than Donald Trump, and the government is already hard at work acquiring the land and materials necessary to build a wall that’s likely to do nothing to stop people from crossing the southern border. Now, a new study shows that the border wall may also be more a more unjustified waste of money than ever.
Illegal immigration has been falling since 2007, but this latest bit of research out of the University of California, San Diego, says it will continue to fall. It’s partly because of Obama – contrary to what xenophobic conservatives say, Obama did not favor or enable an open border. He made stemming the flow of immigrants a priority of his administration. The right wing is pissed because he also worked to protect people who were already here.
However, the biggest causes of the drop are actually far more subtle and beyond the control of even the most hard-line, xenophobic White House. Economic trends, such as falling demand for low-skilled workers, play a huge role too. That’s a long-term trend that these researchers don’t see reversing itself anytime soon.
There’s also a major demographic component to this – our baby boom ended rather quickly in the early 1960s. However, in Latin America, it fell off far more gradually, resulting in a much larger number of younger Latin American workers who could find better opportunities here, in the 1990s and early 2000s, than in their home countries.
That also is no longer true. The birth rate in Latin America is now about the same as ours, resulting in a falloff in the number of people trying to come here for opportunity. Furthermore, the population of undocumented immigrants that we do have is aging. Over the next few decades, they’ll be forced to either start paying ridiculous medical bills out of pocket, or they’ll find themselves forced to return to their home countries.
If you combine these factors, the number of people trying to cross the border illegally will continue to drop. In fact, the researchers believe it will fall sharply over the next 20 years even without a wall.
And yet, here’s Trump and all his loyal subjects still chanting that a wall, which will cost anywhere from $21 billion to $70 billion and take years to build, is absolutely necessary to securing the border. But nobody actually knows how much money we could waste on this wall because no reliable estimates exist. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, there are too “many variables that are currently unknown” to be able to accurately estimate this cost.
Yet they’re asking for $2.6 billion for just 71 miles of new barriers for FY2018. That’s a lot of money for less than 100 miles of barrier.
We already knew that we, the taxpayers, were going to foot the bill for something that’s probably not going to work. But now we’re going to foot the bill for something that isn’t just ineffective, but is wholly unnecessary.
Featured image by Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images