My wife and I recently traveled to the border town of Douglas, Arizona. Along the way, we passed dozens of Border Patrol pickup trucks and two checkpoints. Upon arriving in Douglas, we were greeted by an imposing wall stretching along the border and a town in visible decay.
You see, Douglas was once a shopping destination for Mexican families. Many drove for miles to purchase items that were difficult to find or too expensive in their own country. Many walked across the border to work. Families lived on both sides of the border. All of this is readily confirmed with a quick glance at many of the business signs, which are in Spanish. Not English. After all, this land was owned by Mexico long before it was transferred to the United States.
Unfortunately, much of that cross-border commerce seems to have come to an end. Many of the storefronts are empty and many buildings are boarded up. It is now much more difficult to cross the border and there are far too many incidents in which Mexican citizens have been detained or threatened. It appears that many Americans have also avoided the area.
These are just a few of the consequences of our failed immigration policy.
Other consequences include the blight of our modern day “Great Wall” or “Iron Curtain.” It’s nearly as expensive and no more successful. The wall has reduced the number of migrants crossing the border illegally. And it has blocked the traditional migratory patterns of wildlife, maybe speeding some desert animals on their way to extinction. But it hasn’t stopped the traffic of illegal drugs. It has simply funneled them into a concentrated area which has posed a danger to ranchers and other residents in the area on both sides of the border.
This is no way to deal with immigration.
If we’re to get a handle on the issue, we must pass legislation that creates work permits. We must create an effective national ID system. We must make it easy for businesses to verify workers before hiring them, and we must make it easy to prosecute businesses who hire undocumented workers. We must create a path to citizenship for those who are already here, especially the “dreamers” (those who were brought here at an early age by their parents). And we must stop our large agribusiness corporations from dumping subsidized corn into Mexico and Central America, making it impossible for small farmers to make a living and forcing them to seek employment elsewhere.
Perhaps, most important, we should decriminalize drugs and make them available with a prescription from pharmacies. That would take the profit out of the illegal drug trade and force the drug cartels to find a new occupation. It would depopulate many of our prisons, saving billions in taxes. It would also eliminate the need for “users” to deal with criminals and to commit crimes in order to purchase their drugs.
Well, I can dream, can’t I?