Immigration leader tells Utahns that the border wall is a ‘a powerful symbol. But it’s not a symbol that solves a problem.’

President Donald Trump’s proposed wall with Mexico by itself would not come close to stopping illegal immigration, a man who tries to build national coalitions with conservatives and moderates on immigration told a Utah audience on Thursday.

“The wall makes a great symbol, a powerful symbol. But it’s not a symbol that solves a problem,” Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum told the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

Disagreements over the wall could lead to another shutdown of the federal government next week if negotiators can’t find a solution that both Trump and Democratic leaders in Congress can accept. Trump has demanded $5.7 billion for a border wall, while Democrats, who control the House, don’t want to approve any new spending for it. Utahns are split on whom to blame.

Noorani, the son of Pakistani immigrants who heads a group that generally works from the political right to address immigration, outlined why a wall by itself is no solution.

“It would not stop visa overstays,” he said, which is how 60 percent of undocumented immigrants actually arrived in the country.

“It would not stop people from applying for asylum who are not entering illegally,” including recent caravans of Central Americans who have been criticized by Trump. They identify themselves at the border as they seek refuge from violence.

Noorani added that lieutenants of El Chapo the notorious drug cartel leader, testified last year that “they’re not worried about a wall in the middle of the desert. They’re worried about ports of entry because that’s where they smuggle their drugs” — so it may make more sense to improve detection and add guards there.

Meanwhile, Noorani said that already “we are seeing the number of people entering the country between ports of entry” — where the wall is proposed — “continue to drop,” suggesting that is not where the biggest problem lies.

By Lee Davidson for THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE

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