U.S. Military and the Amazing Impact in Afghanistan

I had the honor of speaking at the annual “Airman of the Year” dinner for a US Air Force wing a few days ago. My tasking was to offer some brief remarks that were motivational and maybe told a story of resiliency. What can a civilian say to the men and women who routinely risk their lives rescuing other military heroes?  About resiliency?

I served once, but never in combat. Never in harm’s way. And now I spend my time in the ivory tower of academia, where my greatest risk is frustration when the campus WiFi goes down. Yet I could do something for these airmen that maybe nobody else could do, or maybe nobody is willing to do.

I could tell them the truth about their service.

Consider Afghanistan, and let me ask you a simple question. Has life expectancy increased, decreased, or stayed about the same since the American and British forces, along with other allies, invaded in the weeks after 9/11 and the 18 years since then?

In 2001, according to the World Bank, the life expectancy of an Afghani at birth was 56 years. Today, it is 64 years. That’s more progress than many of the poorest countries in Sub Saharan Africa.

Out of 1000 children born in 2001, 125 died before their fifth birthday in the year 2001.  Since the US invasion, the children’s mortality rate in Afghanistan has been cut in half. It is 68 today.

Annual income per person was $1120 in 2001 in Afghanistan, and it has nearly doubled since.  Today it is over $1700.

Since 1973, the U.S. military only accepts volunteers. Congress took a gamble that year to end conscription and people the active forces only with young men and, increasingly, young women without a draft. Many admirals and generals opposed the idea, said it would never work. They said that, like most fancy theories from the ivory tower, it was a plan that would work well on paper and crumble on contact with reality. Wait until there’s a real war, and your vaunted “All Volunteer Force” will find itself hollow. Young people will never volunteer in large numbers to go into harm’s way. You’ll see.

Then 9/11 happened, eighteen years ago now. And for eighteen years, young Americans have been raising their hands to take the oath, gritting out basic training, earning stripes and bars, and taking the fight to the enemy. It’s been eighteen years of war, and the quality of enlisted troops in every dimension – mental, physical, moral – is higher than the average civilian. The entire U.S. Army is an elite force, unlike any in the nation’s history. Volunteers all.

This is why my research has uncovered. But there’s something more I shared with the airmen last week.

I’ve heard too many veterans ask, cynically: Did my time in service make a difference?  That question breaks my heart, because there’s no reason for the media to ignore this story, but it’s a story that remains hidden.

Yes. Yes, the American troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq and all across the seven seas have not only kept the enemy on its heels, they have continued what their fathers and grandfathers started. They have made the world a better place.

 

 

Protectionism Redux?

My thinking on trade protectionism is no longer absolute.  Here’s why:

One dirty secret is that state-managed growth isn’t such a bad policy for poor countries. Neoliberals might be angry to read that, but it’s true. But here’s the common sense that policymakers don’t seem to fathom: Policies that work for poor countries have no lessons for the United States.

The United States – a country at the cutting edge of productivity – needs entrepreneurs, not bureaucrats, to maximize economic growth. In contrast, sometimes poor countries need some institutional heavy-handedness to manage their economy. They’re developing, not inventing. Although pure free trade remains the first best development strategy, I no longer believe it is the only one.

Yet the fact that vastly poorer countries have shown that state-managed development and trade protectionism might help close the productivity gap is not instructive to richer countries. It might be helpful to make the contrast plain when U.S. politicians complain about foreign mercantilism. Yes, the Germans manage their trade. So it seems do the Japanese. And look, they have much lower GDP/capita as a consequence!  (USA = $62,000 compared to Germany at $48,000).

The House that Milton Friedman Built

This year, 2019, is the 100th anniversary of the #HooverInstitution, so I thought I’d share a story about how I came to discover the place in my youth ….

“Listen up, young Jedi,” said Lt. Colonel Waller, as he burst into our classroom at the Air Force Academy, “Uncle Miltie is judging a nationwide economics essay writing contest! Here’s the announcement, everybody take one, and here’s my deal with you…” For Colonel Waller, there was no greater economist, no greater American, than Milton Friedman. In the middle of every lecture, after explaining the textbook model, he’d urge us to think critically with the phrase: What would Uncle Miltie say? “So, here’s the deal. Anyone who submits an essay to the contest can also count it as their final thesis paper for this class!  Here’s the question the essay must answer: ‘How can a communist society become free?’

It was January 1990 and the Iron Curtain was crumbling. Even though we were Firsties (seniors) a few months from throwing our white cadet caps in the air, I decided to enter the contest.  To make a long story short, my essay was selected by Milton Friedman himself as one of the best, which I learned when the economics department received a letter inviting me to attend an awards luncheon at someplace called the Hoover Tower in Stanford University. Wow!

That day, meeting my hero, was something I will always cherish. The Hoover Institution was daunting, and inspiring. The lunch was another level of incredible, and I’ll tell you that story someday in the future. Unfortunately, as the years have passed, I lost track of my college papers including the essay I wrote. Who doesn’t lose such things?  But as I am preparing to move back to the Hoover Institution’s main campus this summer, I am opening old boxes and discovering lost gems. That first novel?  Please burn it. But there in one of the musty files was a dot matrix printout of the essay Friedman deemed worthy. It’s embarrassing and wonderful at the same time. I’m still smiling about it.

So, to honor the Hoover Institution and celebrate our greatest Fellow, I thought it might be fun to post that first ever essay of mine that caught the eye of somebody special.

Milton Friedman Tim Kane 1990

HOW CAN’T A COMMUNIST SOCIETY BECOME FREE?

Timothy J. Kane
January 1990

 “And ye shall know the truth,
and the truth shall make you free”

St. John 8:32

The bourgeoisie’s “fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable,”[1] said Karl Marx in the Communist Manifesto. Indeed, it was Marx’s reliance on the “inevitable” vindication of history which allowed him to speak from a moral high ground, impossible to challenge empirically. Ironically, it is history which has shattered the smoke and mirrors of communism. It seems the dialectic progress of history is not moving inevitably toward extreme paternalism, rather the “inevitable” progress of history is in the direction of freedom.

Given the apparent “collapse of communism,” perhaps the presumption of the very question we are asking is incorrect. Rather than how can, we should ask how can’t a communist society become free? The examination of this question will be done with three levels of analysis: economic, philosophic and historic.

Before beginning, I will define the terms. I define Freedom as anarchy, given only the limit of respecting the freedom of others, the balance of which is chosen by each individual society. Communism, I define as the ideal of paternalistic government expressed by its main author, Karl Marx.

Economic

I will focus on three reasons which explain how communism has crumbled economically: prices, labor & capital, and trade.

First, the command economy denies that the function of prices is to assign realistic values to goods. Instead, prices are used simply for accounting. This denial has led to uncontrollable deficits, rampant inflation, and a runaway money supply in the USSR. Only by de-collectivizing agriculture has China avoided similar chaos. Thus, the only reconciliation can be the fundamental admission that the free market should allocate resources by letting supply and demand set the prices.

Secondly, Marx promulgated his theory on the Foundations of an inherent conflict in bourgeois society between labor & capital. Yet one of the solid theories of our time is that labor and capital are productive forces (factors) which complement, not contradict, one another. Marx’s (and David Ricardo’s) labor theory of value blatantly disregards the power of capital and has been discredited with a modern analysis of comparative advantage.[2] Moreover, expanding the production of a nation on a macroeconomic scale is now viewed as depending on the relative marginal costs of capital and labor, hence their complementary, not contradictory, tension.

Lastly, modern economic theory of trade exposes the Flaws of Marxism. How can a society participate in free trade (with its gentle push towards factor-price equalization) if it is communist, inherently denying the real power of prices? Herein, we find the great contradiction of Marxism, since trade is based on the exchange of goods for the benefit of both parties, inherently linked to the supply and demand of those goods.

This trade, whether it be founded in bartering or currency exchange, demands the communist society must assign real value to its goods; that it must recognize the correctness of the market. It cannot do so without simultaneously abandoning its communist philosophy and adopting a belief in freedom. I contend such freedom in one aspect of life cannot coexist with tyranny in other aspects. Once tasted and vindicated by the people, freedom will spread from economics to all parts of society.

Philosophic

I have two points of contention with Marxism on a purely philosophical/theoretical level. First, I dispute his view of absolute equality. Secondly, I question his opposition to private property.

According to a recent essay by Francis Fukuyama in the National Interest, Marx’s predecessor and father of the dialectic, G. F. W. Hegel, thought the true “end” of history would be the liberal democratic state (in the literal sense of liberal).[3] In contrast, Marx’s philosophy is based in the materialist dialectic, focusing exclusively on productive forces.

Marx wrote, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”[4] Not only is this view a perversion of the dialectic, but the classless society already exists in free America, rather than in any communist utopia. According to Alexis de Tocqueville, the social mobility afforded by “equality of conditions” created equal opportunity, hence destroying stratified class distinctions.[5] Similarly, Fukuyama explains:

…the egalitarianism of modern America represents the essential achievement of the classless society envisioned by Marx.[6]

It is ironic also, that Marx’s historical call to the inevitable was preceded by Tocqueville, who said (26 years before the Manifesto), “the gradual and progressive development of social equality is at once the past and future of [mankind’s] history.”[7]

What this all means is that Marx misunderstood equality on a philosophical level. Happiness from his type of “equality” could not occur by having us all the same sex. True equality is found by letting anyone try anything, allowing everyone equal opportunity to fail and to succeed.

A separate argument can be made against Marx’s most fundamental theoretical claim: the theory of Communists may be summed up in a single sentence: “Abolition of private property.”[8] Covering this foundation, however, many offers the promise of an end of scarcity, an end to poverty and unemployment. Seemingly carries Christian virtues, yet his first assumption is ridiculous. Man is a profit maximizer and scarcity is the foundation of all economic thought.

On a deeper level, when Marx extends a promise that private property will be abolished, he likewise eliminates the incentive to work. If I receive as much reward for failing as I do for succeeding in my ventures, why should I even work at all? Yet, this is the mindset communism creates, evident in the labor situation in Soviet agriculture.

As for Christianity, the love of fellow men is an individual choice; something we give to one another. Marxism perverts this by mandating homage to a state-run ideal, in essence, taking. It sanitizes the virtue of sacrifice, making the ideal a hollow one.

Consequently, I think this must make us question the very foundations of communism: paternalism of all kinds. Here in America, we have finally begun to discarded the idea of “progressive” taxes with the tax reform under Reagan (though not completely). How long until we question the wisdom of minimum wages and the inefficient social welfare programs?

Perhaps we should remember whose philosophy has been proven correct. If so, we will remember John Locke and our very own Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson first proposed the idea of a meritocracy (i.e. rewarding the excellence of virtue and talent in individuals), philosophically organizing our nation with a belief in equal opportunity. Also, Locke’s “natural rights of man” contains something very simple: private property. That, above all else, has been vindicated. It is toward this light which communist societies cannot help but move, for it represents a truth about man’s incentives which cannot be denied.

Historic

It is an exercise in redundancy and simplicity to examine the unprecedented destruction and reformation of communist societies in Eastern Europe and the USSR itself. Without further examination, this revolution alone proves that no controls will constrain mankind’s instinctive and natural passion for freedom. But I think we need to examine more than the fact that it is happening, and also examine how.

During his visit to Washington, Lech Walesa remarked, “How did these reforms appear? That’s a result of civilization – of computers, satellite TV [and other innovations] which present alternative solutions.”[9] Here in America, we believe that allowing press to be free brings us closer to the truth, ultimately strengthening us. The vindication of our faith in the power of information can now be seen as it spreads around the world.

Almost thirty years ago, a man named Marshall McLuhan proposed that media would change the world. Likewise, in his Nobel speech, Alexander Solzhenitsyn said that Literature would spread truth, and truth would destroy “the lie.” Both believed in the power of information. The Nation magazine concurs that such events are occurring now:

The global village is growing. Glasnost in the Soviet Union, stirrings in eastern Europe and demands for openness in China all respond in real measure to images of freedom and dignity transmitted by the penetrating networks foreseen by McLuhan.[10]

The fate of paternalistic domination through information controls can only be popular resentment and a hastening of internal downfall. Consequently, the process of the death of communism is clear: truth.

In light of the above analysis and the challenges facing Marxism today, I believe the proper question to ask is how can’t a communist society become free? The fact is that no society can stop the march of freedom. Nothing they can do will stop freedom from invading their country, first through information, then by undeniable economic truths. As for the philosophy of freedom, perhaps communist societies are now realizing that the essence of freedom has been an undeniable and invincible part of their people all this time.

 

[1] Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. The Communist Manifesto. Ed. Frederick Engels. 100th ed. (New York: International Publishers, 1985), p. 21.

[2] Dominick Salvatore. International Economics. 2nd. ed. (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1987), p. 23.

[3] Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History?” The National Interest. 16 (Summer 1989).

[4] Marx, p. 9.

[5] Alexis de Tocqueville. Democracy in America. (New York: The Modern library, 1981), p. 466-467.

[6] Fukuyama, p. 9.

[7] Tocqueville, p. 8.

[8] Marx, p. 23.

[9] Lech Walesa, “The Wit and Wisdom of Lech Walesa,” Newsweek, November 27, 1989, p. 35.

[10] Ben H. Bagdikan, “The Lords of the Global Village,” The Nation, June 12, 1989, p. 805.

 

NOTE: Thanks to my research assistant, Ravena Sharfuddin, for converting the old essay to digital form!

 

 

 

Why Trump’s Immigration Plan Matters (More Than the MSM Realizes)

In a Rose Garden speech yesterday afternoon (a beautiful mid-May Thursday that is 18 months before the next presidential election), President Trump offered some lengthy remarks about the long-awaited White House proposal to modernize the legal immigration system. This morning, leading newspapers and networks are mistakenly dismissing the plan and missing two watershed changes that Trump’s Plan embodies.

In a nutshell, the new Trump Plan – which seems to have not been publicly released, even in Talking Points form – will restructure the composition of green cards while maintaining the net level of 1.1 million immigrants per year. It’s very much like revenue-neutral tax reform. In this case, Trump is proposing to bring in vastly more “merit-based” new citizens while reducing the number of family-based and (in his words) “random” new citizens. Such a shift is one of the few areas of consensus among policy wonks, and despite the immediate political resistance to the word “merit” by some of Trump’s antagonists, it has been used for decades as a short-hand for employment-based entry and programs that emphasize needed skills and more educated migrants. Regardless, there’s a common complaint we’re hearing from the media:

  • “Cool Reception for a Plan on Immigration” is the title of a page A12 New York Times story, which noted that the plan has no champions among Republican Senators. The story also emphasized that the plan “did not address protections for the so-called Dreamers … or the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.”
  • “[T]his proposal does not address some of the thorniest elements of the immigration debate,” said the Times editorial on page A28.
  • “The new proposal … appears destined for the congressional dustbin (and) … sidesteps some major components of the immigration system that can be far more complex and controversial to resolve,” concludes a lengthy page 1 article in the Washington Post.
  • The Post‘s editorial on page A20 calls it an “improvement over the administration’s previous bar-the-door approach … but the initiative omits even passing reference to the reality of 10 million or 11 million undocumented immigrants,” etc., etc.
  • The Wall Street Journal offers a story on page A4 (but no editorial) which declares in its third paragraph: “It doesn’t address some pressing immigration policy issues….”

Politicians weren’t much better in their neglect of the plan’s substance. It’s fine to disagree with something on the merits (no pun intended), but Senator Chuck Schumer shouldn’t say the new plan is, “the same partisan, radical anti-immigration policies” as before. Trump called for preserving the world’s most open legal level of 1.1 million immigrants per year — that deserves a nod of praise even if you’re the leader of Senate Democrats.

The hypnotic grip of comprehensive immigration reform is hard to shake, apparently. Never has a concept so vexed policymaking. It’s as if a surgical team couldn’t just remove a ruptured appendix without also adding a new stent in the patient’s aorta, transplanting a lung, and doing some liposuction while they’re in there. No, my friend, comprehensive policymaking isn’t a good idea. It has failed every time it has been tried for two decades. President George W. Bush backed the McCain-Kennedy bill in 2007 with a massive, extended campaign. It failed, just like the 2006 effort led by Arlen Specter. Nor did President Obama have a better touch, backing the failed Gang of Eight bill in 2013.

The only thing that efforts to construct comprehensive immigration reform has achieved is polarizing the issue, even fracturing the parties internally. Witness the double failure of House Republicans last year to pass a bill and the current failure of Pelosi’s House majority to even produce a proposal.

The Trump Plan has room for improvement, to be sure, which I’ll gladly debate another day. Don’t let that distract you from what it achieves. First, it charts a new course – a new strategy if you will – of incremental reform rather than comprehensive reform. Second, it locks in Republicans to a new baseline of preserving current legal immigration levels.  If you haven’t been paying attention, the hard line of 1.1 million was in real jeopardy. Now, there’s no going back.

The chart below shows how large the U.S. lead is in terms of total immigrants, with over 48 million total foreign-born residents. It comes from an analysis of United Nations data by Gilles Pison. The global war for talent will define the great power competition of the 21st century, and the U.S. is already far ahead.

There are many important issues in immigration policy, but for me the most important issue by far was holding the line. Legal immigration is literally and philosophically bigger than illegal immigration. It is the key to our national creed and one of the engines of our economic power. Yesterday was a big win.

Does a Border Wall Enhance Home Values?

What is the value of building a barrier between countries? While President Trump is fond of the refrain, “A country without borders is not a country at all,” the reality is more complex. The United States prospered dramatically from 1776-1990, a two century stretch during which it essentially had no physical barrier along its borders. Indeed, it’s not clear that a border wall does much at all to stop immigration. Unless a border is fully militarized, migrants will circumvent physical barriers with tunnels, ladders, or simply cutting holes in the fence (which currently happens roughly twice a day along the nearly 650 miles of fencing that exists along the southern border).

So is a border wall of no value?

Not so fast. I have long suspected that a border wall is ineffective at stopping illegal immigration, but that it is effective at deterring drug trafficking and property crime. Having lived in San Diego for seven years during the late 1990s and 2000s, the construction of border fencing was part of the daily news. I vividly remember seeing new housing developments sprout up in the South County, particularly nice new homes in Chula Vista, during the boom years. Real estate agents said that after the local border fence had been constructed, property crime had gone down, allowing the development of safe, new neighborhoods. Was it true?

Using data from Zillow.com, I compared the property values in four different regions of San Diego County. Zillow has median property values for 87 distinct zip codes throughout the county which I allocated into North County, Central County, South Coastal (Chula Vista), and Border (for the four zip codes in the dataset that include the US-Mexico border). All other factors that affect property values should be roughly equal among the four regions, which gives us a fair assessment of how growth rates in real estate values changed before, during, and after construction of the border fence.

The history is relatively simple. Before the year 1995, border fencing was being put up sporadically.  Only after President Clinton established Operation Gatekeeper in 1995 did the construction of a major barrier, backed by enforcement agents, begin. And it wasn’t until 2006 that the Congress fully funded a larger border wall via the Secure Fences Act. Since it took time in both instances for funding and construction (and a change in perception of conditions), I used the years 2000 and 2008 as critical points in the time series data.

Zillow data begins with observations in April 1996, so I was unable to assess real estate values prior. Nonetheless, I was able to crunch the numbers for two series across three time periods: Pre-2001 (4/1996-1/2001), 2001-2008 (1/2001-12/2008), and Post-2008 (12/2008-11/2018). The two time series are (a) median value per square foot across all home types and (b) the Zillow Index for Single Family Residences.  Here are the results in terms of average annual growth rates.

results

This is a straightforward result. Compared to Central San Diego neighborhoods, the border areas experienced much slower growth rates in property values before 2001. They equalized in terms of the Zillow Index and the median value per square foot ($) in the latter two periods. In fact, after 2008, there is a clear growth boost of 1/3rd of a percentage point in Border and South Coastal neighborhoods attributable to the border barrier.

Did immigration patterns change between the neighborhoods? Not at all. Did patterns of casual trespass change? Absolutely. It is difficult to see these results without appreciating that the value of a wall is in its deterrent effect on property crime or some other value-reducing transient behavior.

No Substance to the Shutdown Fight

My son asked me who should be blamed for the government shutdown: President Trump or the Democrats? There are many ways to answer that question, and each way offers an insight.

Most importantly, the American people need to step back and realize that the fight is entirely symbolic. Both sides are claiming that building the wall will fundamentally change the country for the better/worse. One Democratic senator said, “What we don’t want to do is waste taxpayer money on a vanity project that’s ineffective.” Trump claims it is essential to stop a national emergency, which even he thankfully began walking back when the most ardent congressional supporters expressed via back-channel that such a declaration was a precedent they will never allow. So we are stuck in the midst of a feud about a border wall that, for the most part, already exists.

But who is to BLAME? Clearly both sides are to blame. Dems like to say the President is throwing a temper tantrum. Maybe. You could just as easily see his position as a principled stand, especially because it exposes Dem hypocrisy that they would never support a border wall which many Democrats — such as Barack Obama and Bill Clinton and current legislators — have explicitly called for and voted for before.

The fairest answer to the blame question is that Trump is to blame in the short term but Democrats are to blame in the long term. There’s no denying that this is Trump’s shutdown, and it doesn’t help R’s to hedge on that reality. But there’s no denying the bigger picture that Democrats have sabotaged immigration legislation for over a decade.  It’s all pretense. It’s a game of symbolism for political advantage. Think I am wrong? Then I would challenge you to show me what the compromise position is that Nancy Pelosi is offering? Doug Schoen is 100% right that both sides need to compromise, but the key word is “both.” Does anyone think Trump wouldn’t accept something big that Dems want so long as he gets the wall?

Let’s put the $5.7 border funding request in context. Five billion is small, almost but not quite one tenth of one percent of the annual U.S. federal budget. According to a government source, the feds spent $4.11 trillion in 2018.  The OMB reported 2017 outlays of $50.5 billion for the Department of Homeland Security, $111.7 billion for the Education Department, $1.0008 trillion for Social Security, and $41.3 billion for the Labor Department, just to name a few major categories. So the standoff for Trump’s signature issue – a one-time outlay of $5 billion – is a tenth of the annual DHS budget, or a hundredth of what DHS will spend in the coming decade.

What is the Democrats’ compromise offer? Will they accept a DACA fix in exchange for $5b wall funding?  Will they accept increasing refugee allowances to 100,000 legal immigrants per year along with $2.5b of partial wall funding? Trump gets nothing is not a compromise. It’s a willful effort to humiliate him, to win politically at all costs.

If your instinct is that Trump is losing public support, you are half right. Democrats are losing support, too, according to a CBS poll.

poll-1.jpg

If only negative opinion mattered to the Speaker in absolute terms. Instead, politics is a zero-sum game. So as long as Nancy Pelosi is blamed relatively less than the President, she may interpret the damage to the country as a win for the Democratic Party.

So in the end, who does Dad think is really to blame? Maybe the correct answer is that American democracy has become a serious quagmire. In other words, if you spend your time trying to blame one side or the other, you are probably contributing to the real problem which is a breakdown in civility. The shutdown fight is less about immigration policy than it is about the increasing inability of US institutions to reach compromise.

Facts about “The Wall” & the US Government Shutdown

There’s one bizarre fact that surprises both advocates and opponents of President Donald Trump’s commitment to building a wall along the US-Mexico border. Advocates demand the wall be built, and note that Trump was elected president with this mandate. Opponents insist that a wall must never be built. Just to be clear, we argued against a “Great Wall of Texas” in an Atlantic essay over five years ago.

But here’s the fact that neither side seems to realize: The wall has already been built.

Johnny Simon posted a dozen photo images of the 650+ miles of border barriers already in existence along the 1954 mile US-Mexico border. They are worth a look.

The US government is currently in the midst of the longest partial shutdown in history, the consequence over a standoff for funding for extending the border wall. President Trump refuses to authorize any budget legislation unless it includes $5.7 billion appropriated toward the wall. Democrats in the legislature refuse to allow any appropriations at all. Neither side shows any signs of giving in, nor any compromise position. That hardline negotiation strategy by both sides leaves the country in a bind. What’s the endgame? Nobody knows.

However, it’s worth reflecting on some facts about the wall itself:

  • There was no barrier between the USA and Mexico for over 200 years, until the early 1990s when local US border patrol agents began putting up an ad hoc barrier (using 20-year old metal runway plating) to hinder drug trafficking and crime in San Diego.
  • Roughly 650 miles of barrier exists, which is roughly 1/3 of the length of the border. Most of it is in CA and AZ, and almost none is in TX. Roughly half of the existing barrier blocks pedestrians and vehicles, and the remaining half can block vehicles only. Importantly, much of the border is a natural barrier of deserts and mountains, but the Texas border is dominated by the Rio Grande river and is privately owned on the US side.
  • The existing wall had widespread bipartisan and public support. The “Secure Fence Act of 2006” passed with large, bipartisan support in the House (283-138) and Senate (80-19). That bill authorized construction of a physical barrier of up to 700 miles.
  • The existing wall is effective at stopping crime but ineffective at stopping illegal immigration. It is fair to say the wall does next to nothing to stop immigration, which I say based on interviews with many border patrol agents and personal experience over a decade living in San Diego, LA, and Palo Alto.
  • US border agents prevent exactly 0% of illegal immigrants from entering the country. This is a gross misunderstanding of their mission, which is really to apprehend and process migrants into US custody.