How a Border Wall Would Hurt the U.S. Economy

When Donald Trump speaks of the Great Wall he would build between the United States and Mexico, he fails to account for a few inconvenient facts.

For instance, there are millions of men, women, and children who live in communities that fall on both sides of the international boundary. There are millions of tourists, workers, students, and entrepreneurs who cross the border each day. And there are the billions of dollars in two-way trade that sustain millions of U.S. jobs.

Not surprisingly, were Trump to forge ahead with his plan to create an impenetrable border between two economically and socially integrated countries, he would destroy—or, at best, severely damage—these connections at an enormous humanitarian and economic cost. Likewise with his related plan to clear the United States of all undocumented immigrants, which would subtract millions of workers and consumers from the U.S. economy. If we try to make the United States a Mexico-free zone, we will tear the country apart in the process.

Consider a few facts about the U.S.-Mexico relationship that never make their way into the Great Wall rhetoric:

* The total value of U.S.-Mexico trade is more than $1 billion every day.
* More than 13 million Mexicans traveled to the United States in 2010, spending $8.7 billion.
* Roughly 6 million U.S. jobs are sustained by trade with Mexico.
* More than 20 percent of all U.S. jobs are tied in some way to trade along the border.

For people living in border communities, these are everyday facts of life that fly in the face of the political talking points so commonly used by nativists. That was a central theme of a panel discussion hosted by The Brookings Institution, titled “A complex reality: Security, trade, and the U.S.-Mexico border.” In the first discussion, two Texas Congressman, Will Hurd (R) and Beto O’Rourke (D), transcended the ugly partisan politics that has overtaken the nation’s capital. Rep. Hurd described The Wall as “the most expensive and least effective way of securing the border.” He emphasized the relative safety of border cities and said that the border needs more customs agents, infrastructure upgrades for ports of entry, and intelligence-driven law-enforcement operations that target criminal organizations—not more border fencing and Border Patrol agents.

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