Friday, December 14, 2018

Arithmetic is a challenge for the nativist AFA

Image: Los Angeles Times
American Family Association is known for being an anti-LGBT, anti-Islam hate group. They are also anti-immigrant. One of their flunkies, Michael F. Haverluck, writes: $5B for wall way less than illegals' $155B annual burden.

For starters, the $5 billion was a throw-up number without intensive study. We really have no idea how much this wall would cost were it ever completed. According to a recent report from the GAO, the cost to construct 722 miles of barriers in priority locations was estimated at $18 billion. Trump originally proposed about 2,000 feet of wall. He is now down to about 900 feet (depending on the day of the week, his blood pressure and Melania's, uh, … depth of attention).

The $155 billion that AFA claims would be saved was concocted from a Federation for American Immigration Reforms (FAIR) report published in 2017. Politifact called a prior edition with the same methodology “mostly false.”

The FAIR numbers, inaccurate as they are, are based on the 11 million unauthorized immigrants already here. Trump's wall doesn't remove any of those folks so any cost/benefit analysis starts at zero. Zero people costing zero dollars.

Before we can come up with any reasonable calculation we need to know how unauthorized immigrants enter the country over a defined period of time and where they are coming from. Consider that about 60% of the unauthorized immigrants now in the country have been here for more than a decade. Nearly a third, by the way, are homeowners.

Estimates vary but there is general agreement that about 60% of unauthorized immigrants entered the country legally and then overstayed their visas. Trump's wall would be aimed at stopping a minority of unauthorized immigrants at the border. AFA is assuming that the wall will stop every unauthorized entry from our southern border which is nonsensical.

Another component that AFA has not considered is the inevitable reality that, if people are prevented from entering the United States at the border, they will simply find another way to come here. People have been willing to walk hundreds of miles just for a shot at asylum. These folks seem highly determined.

A further factor is the economic cycle. We are probably at, or near, the end of almost ten years of growth. It is inevitable that the cycle will turn south. When that happens there will be fewer jobs available over a number of years. The American lure becomes less shiny.

The bottom line is that AFA is comparing two uncertain numbers that are unrelated to each other for comparison purposes. In plain English it set my bullshit detector awhir.

When it comes to immigration I am no expert. I am not even an amateur but I did have one thought in the form of a question. A certain number of unauthorized entrants are asylum seekers. U.S. law requires people to be in the country to petition for asylum. Why not permit people to apply for asylum at a U.S. consulate or embassy? What would be the net effect? I cannot begin to answer those questions.

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