Skip to comments.Double Crossing at the Rio Grande
Posted on 11/17/2003 3:22:10 PM PST by Congressman Billybob
There are two major problems facing the United States today about which Congress is doing almost nothing. It's not that Congress doesn't know about them; everyone who watches television knows about them. It's just that Congress is paralyzed by the politics of these issues the loss of American jobs overseas, and the flood of illegal immigrants into the US.
Mexico is not the sole source of either of these problems. But it is at the top of both lists and can serve as an example for the other nations. A brief clip I saw on network television about twenty-five years ago has stuck with me all these years. This was back when I watched the not-so-big three networks, of necessity. The clip offered a part of the story that the reporter doing the voice-over didn't even notice, much less discuss.
It was a special report on illegal immigration. The network's camera crew went into Mexico and set up shop south of the Rio Grande just before nightfall. In the far distance was Texas. In the near distance, concealed by a line of bushes, was the Rio Grande River. And hiding behind those bushes was a group of Mexicans, waiting until nightfall to make a run to cross the shallow river.
That was all that the network wanted to show, and all that it talked about. But the camera showed more than that. In the foreground was a road running across the scene. As the camera was showing the Mexicans getting ready to run for the border, a Jeep came down that road driving right to left. Its top was down, and in it were either two or three federales, or Mexican national police. Those policemen saw the Mexican citizens about to make a run for the border, but they said nothing, did nothing, and did not even slow down.
Neither the reporter on the scene nor the network anchor even noticed that second image which they inadvertently showed on the news. Still, that second image was the key to the story then, and is even more essential to understanding this story today.
Two weeks ago a report came out that remissions from Mexicans, money sent back from its citizens in the US (legal and illegal), has just passed sales of oil as the largest single source of income to Mexico. The simple truth is that it is currently in Mexico's self-interest to promote immigration to the US regardless of whether it is legal. From their standpoint, they should not be guarding their side of the border. Instead, they should be using government employees to drive the immigrants to the border, hand them binoculars, blankets and canteens, and wish them well.
The other form of crossing the Rio Grande is entirely legal and happens every day in broad daylight. American jobs are crossing that river into Mexico, and setting up shop in factories along the Mexican side of the border. It is mostly manufacturing jobs that are moving south of the border. To my direct knowledge, some of the jobs making this trek from North Carolina are electronic assembly jobs, and manufacturing of clothing. But every day, newspapers in all parts of the US report the closing of many types of manufacturing plants, with the equipment being shipped off to Mexico along with the jobs of running that equipment.
In due course, the manufactured goods are loaded into both American and Mexican trucks, and come back across the border to be sold in the US. This is entirely legal. The reason for that is spelled NAFTA, short for the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Some of those trucks carry illegal as well as legal goods drugs, immigrants packed into sealed compartments where some of them suffocate to death, etc. But those are stories for another day.
For about a decade I've been trying to figure out a means to get control of both of these problems. Most Americans agree that we should "seal our border with Mexico." That is, they agree we should do this to stop illegal immigration, until they see the price tag for hiring either civilian or military agencies to do that overwhelming job on a 3,000-mile border. Congress is paralyzed politically, because they don't want to offend "the Hispanic voters." They are assuming that all Hispanics support unlimited illegal immigration, which happens not to be true. This cowardice of Congress needs to be confronted today, because it will increase in the future as the tide of illegal immigration continues to grow and even more "votes" are at stake.
My suggestion is simple, and it would contribute to the solution of both problems illegal immigration and the export of American jobs. It is: Charge a Transit Security Fee on all trucks crossing the Mexican border into the United States.
Here's how it would work: Calculate the total cost, including Border Patrol, INS, state and local police, courts, prisons, etc., involved in finding, holding and returning to Mexico illegal immigrants to the US. Say that cost is $10 billion annually. Divide that by the total number of truck crossings of semi-trailers into the US, making no distinction between American and Mexican trucks. Say that number is 10 million.
Use those two figures to calculate the Transit Security Fee on each truck. With the figures given, that would be $1,000 per truck per crossing. Set the Transit Security Fee at 25% initially, or $250, with the possibility of raising it if the twin problems continue to get worse. The Fee would be recalculated annually with respect to all foreign nations. What would be the logical results of this?
First, there would be howls of protest from nations all around the world. The Transit Security Fee should not be directed just at Mexico, but at all nations with whom we have an immigration problem. It could just as easily be applied to all shipping containers that arrive in any port, carrying foreign-manufactured goods and ready to load on trucks or rail cars for shipment to all parts of the US.
Second, the World Trade Association would certainly do its best imitation of a hornet's nest whacked with a stick. They would claim that these are tariffs which are illegal under various trade agreements. However, the Transit Security Fee would not be a tax. It would apply equally to every truck or container, regardless of the value of its contents or even if it is empty.
Going back to the example of Mexico, here are the practical effects. The Fee would discourage US manufacturers from moving their plants to Mexico, because if the twin problems of illegal immigration and overseas job loss continued, that 25% Fee could be increased. Mexico would have an immediate and practical incentive to start guarding ITS side of the border, because if illegal immigration decreased, the Fee would go down, and the existing plants in Mexico would be more competitive and therefore more successful.
In short, the Transit Security Fee would cause the export of the only type of American jobs which we DO want to move to other countries: border guards. It costs less to manufacture a truckload of electrical switches, or a truckload of blue jeans, using Mexican labor rather than American labor. It also costs less to guard a mile of the Rio Grande using Mexican labor rather than American labor. The problem is, as shown by that old TV image I remember, today Mexico has no incentive whatsoever to do that.
The Transit Security Fee would give Mexico an immediate, clear and large financial incentive to begin guarding its side of the border.
Now, a brief word about the 3,000-mile unguarded border that we have with Canada. We don't have a major problem dealing with large numbers of individual Canadians sneaking across the border into the US. We DO have a major problem of terrorists operating with much impunity in Canada, and then getting into the US. Just two weeks ago the Canadian Minister of the Interior announced after a year of study that his government would not release the names and photographs of 58 war criminals known to have been in Canada, but whom the government has lost track of. He said he would not put out those names and photos because it would "violate the right of privacy of those individuals."
There are huge costs associated with finding, catching and dealing with terrorists who come into the US from Canada. Divide those costs by the number of trucks and apply the Transit Security Fee to trucks from Canada. There would be a lot of whining and complaining from Ottawa, but they, too, would have an immediate and real financial incentive to do their jobs on their side of the border, so we do not have to mop up for their mistakes on our side of the border.
From experience over the years, I know that some very bright, very experienced people read these columns. Feel free to take shots at what I've suggested, and tell me where I'm wrong. But if you think this is an idea that deserves consideration, feel free to e-mail this whole column (adding a cover note of your own ) to your Senators or Representatives. Here are the respective websites to reach all Members of Congress: http://www.senate.gov And, http://www.house.gov
You can also send this column to such members of the news media that you think might pay attention to your e-mail and take creative solutions seriously. To my experience, the list of media folks who meet both standards is very short. So I leave this point to your discretion.
I look forward to hearing from you.
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About the Author: John Armor is an author and columnist on politics and history. He currently has an Exploratory Committee to run for Congress.
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but they, too, would have an immediate and real financial incentive to do their jobs on their side of the border, so we do not have to mop up for their mistakes on our side of the border.
The fee would be imposed on citizens, specifically business owners, not governments. The governments would still lack incentives to incur huge and unpopular expenditures on keeping their citizens in.
There is an even bigger problem: except for the communists, NO COUNTRY has ever kept its citizens in. And yet this is what you suggest they do. (Note that it applies to your remark regarding the Mexican police jeep: those policemen had no duty --- in fact, no right --- to interfere because no Mexican laws are broken by the Mexicans crossing into the U.S.) We certainly do not want to advocate the measures for which we dispised the Soviet Union so deeply. Nor will it ever gather support for the same reason.
Further, your fee is a tax on services and will be probably deemed illegal by the courts.
I am afraid there is no other way but to deal with the problem straighforwardly: it's our border to protect, and we should incur the corresponding cost. If the tiny Israel can do that, so can we. And it does not have to be a cement wall. The Soviet Russia had the borders incorably longer than ours are, and yet their borders were impenetratable even forty years ago. We have sufficient means to protect our border electronically. The only thing we lack is will.
But have we ever before seen a leader of a foreign country so hell-bent on finding his citizens new homes in our country? It seems we could tell Fox to get lost and fix some of the problems over there instead of even wasting any time with him --- let him head over to Canada to work on some of his immigration accords over there --- or anywhere else. For some reason we seem to be his only target.
The Mexican police and army are all over the border for some reason --- one illegal told me our agents are professional and respectful and that if they're right on the border and they see the federales or Mexican army guys coming after them from the south and they see the US border patrol coming after them from the north, they'll go to the US border patrol --- there's no telling what the Mexican agents are up to.
Sure: Britain, Holland, France, Spain...
Nazi Germany certainly did so.
This is a very good idea, but I would suggest that the reduced fee be based upon a direct ratio of the % of capacity THAT truck was filled to with illegal mexicans being returned to Mexico. A small, accessable database would container the information based upon VIN and trailer ID as to the percentage of capacity on that trucks last southbound crossing.
pay the $1,000.00 refundable fee to get into the database. Then..
25% capacity = $250.00 credit, or rather... a $750.00 additional fee, non-refundable
50% capacity = 500.00 credit on the southbound crossing, $500.00 additional on the northbound leg.
75% capacity headed south will result in a mear $250.00 norbound crossing fee. Crossing southbound with a full load of wetback earns THAT TRUCK a free crossing headed north. All trucks in the program are searched north and southbound. The owner/operator or smart company owner can cross the boarder for free. Just have the driver swing by the closest BICE lockup and grab a load headed south.
If the owner sells the truck, send in a letter (registered and notarized) that the truck is pulling out of the program and the BFBC will issue a prompt refund of the initial $1,000.00 entry fee.
One point you make is correct. What I suggest would cause the price of goods in the US to rise. The reason is that more Americans would be employed at American wages to produce goods, rather than America being awash in the cheapest possible goods -- but produced overseas.
Alexander Hamilton, in his seminal work "On Manufacturing" recognized just such a process for the purpose of protecting American businesses and jobs. We cannot continue to have it both ways -- cheap foreign goods without limit, plus protection of American jobs. More of the former necessarily means less of the latter. This is a basic, public policy choice that Congress has, so far, avoided making.
John / Billybob
Speaking of monetary and political incentives, it has long been my belief we should not be deporting illegals to the nearest border town. If they're Mexican, we should be putting them on board ships and dropping them off on the far side of the Yucatan Peninsula, say on the beach at Cozumel or Cancun. From there it is a loooong way back to the US border. It would greatly discourage a re-run, or at least a hasty one. Plus, the Mexican government certainly wouldn't want the embarrassment, the costs and all the tourists inconvenienced (lots of dollars involved there).
Whatever. Something effective has to be done about this problem and soon. The politicians seem to be too gutless to do it. These problems are gutting our country. It just isn't worth it to get lettuce picked at 10 cents a head cheaper or jeans for $12 instead of $15.
We may or may not be able to stop the influx ourselves by whatever measures we take on our side of the border... but if we want to Mexicans to take action to stop it, the only way we will get them to do it is if they find it to be *in their interest* to do so.
That could consist of threatening to send the Texas Rangers over the border, restricting tourism into Mexico, whatever... but it has to be something which causes them to *want* to stop the invasion. Hitting them in the pocketbook is probably the best option for the moment.