BY Oscar Castillo | NEWS EDITOR
Building a border wall and having Mexico pay for it has been Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s main platform since his campaign announcement in 2015; however, experts say it won’t happen.
Trump met with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Aug. 31, before speaking at a rally in Arizona, where he laid out his plan on illegal immigration.
Hours after the meeting, Peña Nieto tweeted in Spanish: “At the beginning of the conversation with Donald Trump, I made clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall.”
The following day, Trump tweeted, “Mexico will pay for the wall!”
Peña Nieto replied in Spanish: “I repeat what I said personally, Mr. Trump: Mexico would never pay for a wall.”
Despite the back-and-forth Twitter war between the Mexican president and the Republican nominee, Trump’s website still states that a wall will be built along the U.S. southern border, and until Mexico decides to pay for it, the consequences will include the impoundment of all remittance payments (wire transfers) derived from illegal wages and fee increases on the following: temporary visas issued to Mexican CEOs and diplomats, border crossing cards, NAFTA worker visas from Mexico and ports of entry to the U.S. from Mexico.
The primary purpose of a border wall would be to prevent Latin American countries from “exporting the crime and poverty in their own country” through illegal immigration, according to a document on Trump’s website, titled “Trump’s Immigration Reform That Will Make America Great Again.”
Border security and immigration
Amid Trump’s call for a border wall, federal statistics show that the number of illegal crossings is down from 2014.
During Fiscal Year 2015, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) apprehended 337,117 illegal immigrants, nationwide, according to the CBP’s website. Most apprehensions occurred in the Rio Grande Valley sector, 147,257. Of those, 48,173 were Mexican nationals.
The 337,117 apprehensions reflect a 30 percent decrease from the 2014 crisis and an 80 percent decrease from its peak in FY 2000.
Asked what caused the crisis, Omar Zamora, CBP public affairs officer, replied: “Several reasons, right. There’s misinformation provided by the smugglers on the south side—kind of like a psyops campaign going on. In addition to that, there’s a capacity issue, right. Once our other partners’, their capacity is full, at that point we are not able to hold or detain family units or children units.”
The 2014 crisis consisted of an increase in the number of unaccompanied children from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador crossing the U.S. Southwest border.
In FY 2000, 1,676,438 illegal immigrants were apprehended.
Asked what the CBP will do to further decrease the flow of illegal immigration in the RGV sector, Zamora replied: “When we see the numbers start to climb up a bit we’re able to flaunt in agents from other sectors that may be a little bit slower—whether it be El Paso sector, whether it be the San Diego sector. So, we’re able to bring manpower in and it’s experienced manpower; they’re not trainees. So, they’re able to hit the ground running and work the field. … And then, on top of that we have a messaging campaign in Central America. … And part of that is just messaging the dangers that are associated with coming here to the United States, whether it be being taken advantage of by the smugglers or robbed or sexually assaulted or in many cases be left behind to die by the smugglers. They can drown as they’re crossing the river. There is several canals they have to cross. So, it’s really important that we message that out to them in their homeland, just to warn them that it’s not worth taking that risk.”
During Fiscal Year 2015, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted 235,413 deportations, according to the FY 2015 ICE Immigration Removals overview. Of the 235,413 deportations, 59 percent, or 139,368, had been previously convicted of a crime.
Between Oct. 1, 2015, and Aug. 20, 2016, a total of 210,583 illegal immigrants were deported.
The report also states that the top 10 countries of origin for deportation were Latin American. Mexicans made up 62 percent of all deportations, while Guatemalans followed with 14 percent.
In an email to The Rider, ICE Public Affairs Officer Nina Pruneda wrote that “ICE’s verified numbers show that the average cost for repatriating an individual outside of the United States, from identification through removal, in Fiscal Year 2015 was $12,213. This includes all costs necessary to identify, apprehend, detain, process through immigration court, and remove an individual from the country. Removal cost on its own averaged $1,962 in Fiscal Year 2015, depending on the country.”
In Fiscal Year 2015, 531,463 immigrant visas were issued, according to the Report of the Visa Office 2015. Mexican citizens received 82,476 visas, the most any country of origin received. Nationals of the Dominican Republic received 45,065, while the Chinese received 39,251.
It is estimated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that 416,500 individuals overstayed their visas out of the 44,928,381 nonimmigrant admissions in Fiscal Year 2015, according to the Entry/Exit Overstay Report by the DHS.
Canada leads the Suspected In-Country Overstays with 93,035 followed by Mexico at 42,114. Brazil follows with 35,707 individuals overstaying in the U.S.
UTRGV Political science Professor Mark Kaswan said in an interview with The Rider that although a border wall is “in the realm of possibility,” constructing it would not be ideal.
“Based on what happened here, when they were building this fence, if they attempted to build a wall I think you would see an armed revolt in the Rio Grande Valley—I mean that facetiously,”
Kaswan said. “But, people will be very strongly upset, and I would not be surprised to see action taken against the wall to prevent it from being built, including direct action.”
He then said that if the border fence hasn’t been finished, why would the wall be any different.
In 2009, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that pedestrian fencing cost an average of $3.9 million per mile, while vehicle fencing cost $1 million per mile, according to the Secure Border Initiative Fence Construction Costs report.
“You could do all that, you could do things,” Kaswan said. “You could have armed guards standing shoulder to shoulder 24 hours a day, you could do that. … The cost would be impossible, and I think, the kinds of things that Trump is talking about would be so expensive—and Mexico would not pay for the wall—that, it’s really absurd. It’s at a level of absurdity.”
Kaswan said that Trump’s tactics to make Mexico pay for the wall would harm the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico and, in some cases, backfire.
“Imposing a fee on [remittance payments] would harm the Mexican economy because it would mean that people in Mexico that depend on the transfers would receive less,” Kaswan said. “So, that would mean greater poverty in Mexico, which would then create more pressure for people to try to immigrate to the United States. So, it would, in fact, backfire.”
Jerry Polinard, fellow UTRGV political science professor, said that illegal immigration is not a problem, in terms of violent crimes.
“The crime rates committed by [the] undocumented are lower than those from the regular population,” Polinard said. “So, it’s an interesting political debate on both sides. … But, building a wall does not appear to address the problems that are being articulated by the supporters of the wall.”
A report by Walter Ewing, senior researcher at the American Immigration Council; Daniel E. Martínez, assistant professor of sociology at George Washington University; and Rubén G. Rumbaut, a distinguished professor of sociology from the University of California, Irvine, titled “The Criminalization of Immigration in the United States,” states: “Between 1990 and 2013 … the number of unauthorized immigrants more than tripled from 3.5 million to 11.2 million. During the same period, FBI data indicate that the violent crime rate declined 48 percent—which included falling rates of aggravated assault, robbery, rape, and murder.”
The rate of violent crimes dropped from 79.8 to 20.1 per 1,000 between 1993 and 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Building a wall would help wall builders, but even more it would help people that build ladders,” Polinard said.
Jorge L. Guerra Jr., who attended the Democratic National Convention as an alternate delegate and is the lead volunteer in the Rio Grande Valley for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, said he doesn’t have a problem with deporting immigrants who have a criminal record, but not the law-abiding immigrants.
“I would be open to Trump’s position [on immigration] if he would say it in a way that wasn’t racist, in a way that doesn’t inflame racial tensions,” Guerra said. “It’s just the way that he says it.”
Joaquin Pistokache, RGV Ambassador for Students for Trump, said the U.S. needs to enforce its immigration laws.
“I feel that there’s been a lack—I guess you can say a lack of focus, there’s been more of an open borders policy and this is coming from all over the world and I feel that the laws need to be enforced because we need to know who comes into our country,” Pistokache said. “There’s nothing racist about knowing who’s coming into our country. … Same way that you wouldn’t let anyone into your home if you didn’t know who they were. So, that’s where I stand.”
Asked what his thoughts were on Trump visiting Peña Nieto, Pistokache replied: “The president invited both candidates, but only one of them showed up. So, to me, I see a proactive to getting things done.”
Luis Perez, a psychology senior on the Brownsville campus, said creating a border wall might help secure the campus from illegal immigrants.
“Since I work here I’ve experienced, you know, when they actually cross … ” Perez said about seeing immigrants crossing the border behind the Texas Southmost College Recreation Center. “I’ve experienced it four times and I just go in and call campus police. So, I’ve had that experience.”
Perez said because of his experience he knows what to do in that situation, whereas other students might not know what to do.
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Police Department can be reached at 882-8232 in Brownsville, 665-7151 in Edinburg or 882-7232 in Harlingen.