Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s recent speech on immigration really missed the point. I understand Trump’s frustration over the U.S. government’s inability to control the U.S. borders and keep out those who would come to this country illegally. Trump was right that the media ignore legitimate questions we have on our immigration policy and he is right that special interests have a great interest in maintaining the status quo.
However when it comes to really solving the immigration problem he gets it all wrong. And instead of making us more free and prosperous, his solutions will accelerate our downward slide toward authoritarianism.
First let’s consider his idea of building a big wall between the U.S. and Mexico. It is said that all one needs to get over an eight foot fence is a nine foot ladder. Or perhaps a shovel. So walls are never very good at keeping people out. But they are very good at keeping people in. Just ask the East Germans. The communist government claimed in 1961 that it had to build a wall around the portion of Berlin it controlled to keep the population safe from the evil capitalist wreckers and saboteurs. It didn’t take long for the world to realize that the real threat to the East German leaders was that the people trapped in East Berlin would try to get out. We have all seen the horrific videos of East German civilians risking — and losing — their lives to escape that prison of razor wire and cinder block.
Is this really what we want for our own future?
What a wild conspiracy theory, some may claim. The wall would never be meant to keep us from leaving. Well ask the IRS. Under a tax enforcement provision passed in 2015, the US government claimed the right to cancel any American citizen’s passport if Washington claims it is owed money.
Trump also made E-Verify the center of his immigration speech. He said, “We will ensure that E-Verify is used to the fullest extent possible under existing law, and we will work with Congress to strengthen and expand its use across the country.”
While preventing those here illegally from being able to gain employment may appeal to many who would like to protect American jobs, E-Verify is the worst possible solution. It is a police state non-solution, as it would require the rest of us legal American citizens to carry a biometric national ID card connected to a government database to prove that the government allows us to work. A false positive would result in financial disaster for millions of American families, as one would be forced to fight a faceless government bureaucracy to correct the mistake. Want to put TSA in charge of deciding if you are eligible to work?
The battle against illegal immigration is a ploy to gain more control over our lives. We are supposed to be terrified of the hoards of Mexicans streaming into our country and thus grant the government new authority over the rest of us. But in fact a Pew study found that between 2009 and 2014 there was a net loss of 140,000 Mexican immigrants from the United States. Yes, this is a government “solution” in search of a real problem.
How to tackle the real immigration problem? Eliminate incentives for those who would come here to live off the rest of us, and make it easier and more rational for those who wish to come here legally to contribute to our economy. No walls, no government databases, no biometric national ID cards. But not a penny in welfare for immigrants. It’s really that simple.
Ron Paul is a former congressman and presidential candidate. He can be reached at the RonPaulInstitute.org.