Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Wall is not a change in policy

Common Beliefs of the Wallophobe

A number of acquaintances of mine stand strongly against The Wall. They find it to be inhumane towards the people that strive to enter our country for a better life and as a poor symbol for America. I saw on facebook today that the proposed wall is analogous to the heavily fortified walls that separated East and West Germany. The core difference between the two is that traditional border walls are meant to limit the movement of outsiders, whereas the Berlin Wall was meant to limit the movement of its own citizens. To keep them contained within the harsh conditions of the Iron Curtain.

The US legal system generally does not limit the movement of its citizens. To build a wall in the East German style, to prevent citizens from exiting the country, would require a change in policy. We would have to outlaw leaving the country for such a wall to be legally justifiable. On the other hand, the US does limit the movement of people who are not legal residents. You must be granted permission, one way or another, to enter. To build The Wall requires no change in immigration policy; it is meant to enforce the laws already on the books. There currently exist numerous enforcement mechanisms. There are already physical barriers in place at some points. If you try to enter the country at an airport you will be met with barriers and armed guards at customs.

The Wall is intended as a tool of enforcement for the policy in place. If you are presented with a Wallophobe, you might point out that they really only have two options: (1) the wish for current immigration laws to continue to go unenforced, or (2) the wish to repeal legal statutes that outlaw the entry of non-residents. In this particular case, the Wallophobe responded that he did not oppose the immigration laws, just The Wall (and other structures) as a tool of enforcement. Okay so there's actually a third option then. And I suspect that it is the mostly widely help stance of Wallophobes. They're not against enforcement altogether, but believe The Wall is inhumane and a bad symbol for America. Fair enough, let's take that apart a little.

Tools of Immigration Enforcement

Broadly there are three classes of enforcement mechanisms for immigration laws in response to someone who has determined to enter the country illegally.


Preventative measures physically discourage or prevent the act of entry. Physical barriers such as walls are one technique. Also posting armed guards at the border will detract would-be aliens, under threat of lethal force. That is, instead of building a wall to block movement, we say, "If we see you crossing the border we will kill you." 


Extractive measures deal with physically removing an illegal alien from the country. This is always done by armed men* authorized to use whatever amount of force is necessary.


Punitive measures are meant to act as a deterrent to entry in the first place, and to detain those who won't be kept out by other available means. Punitive measures may include being killed, beaten, or tortured if discovered, but that is not permissible in the US. In our country, punishment always ultimately means being locked into prison. 

The least humane option

As far as I can tell, those are the major tools of immigration enforcement available to us. If I have missed some, please let me know. Ideally the laws are strongly enforced, and we rely on all 3 tiers of enforcement. Preventative measures reduce the inflow, extractive measures reduce those who manage to get through, and punitive measures are used to address repeat offenders or those who commit additional crimes.

What happens when barriers are removed? Then the only remaining preventative measure is armed guards. We'll just line the border with guards and shoot whoever dares to cross. Now I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that anyone who sees a wall as inhumane and a bad symbol is going to be similarly opposed to border patrolmen with rifles ready to fire on all intruders. So we are left with no preventative measures.

If someone is opposed to using a wall to restrain the movement of foreigners just for crossing an imaginary border, they must also be opposed to restraining them with prison walls for the same offence. Thus we are left with no means of punitive responses.

That leaves us only with extractive measures, of which there is only one: forced removal. Anyone opposed to to physical structures as a tool of immigration policy must also in favor of increasing the number of people who cross and the amount of physical force that must be applied to remove them. It would seem that eliminating barricades is the least humane enforcement option.

But really, I don't think anyone who thinks walls are inhumane is going to advocate for more Elian Gonzalez style extractions. They say they support the enforcement of immigration laws, but they reject all enforcement mechanisms. So they don't really support the policy. There is no third option after all. They must either reject the policy, or reject enforcement of the policy. But rejection of enforcement is really just rejection of the policy. 

This does not mean that enforcement always requires a wall. A wall is required whenever a wall is required. We have up to 30 million data points indicating that a southern wall is needed. If there were 30 illegal Canadians here then that would suggest the need for a northern wall. We have not invalidated cost-benefit analyses that might apply.


The above described the available immigration enforcement. Once you ask a Wallophobe what enforcement they would choose, they will not be able to provide any. Because like I said, the wall is the most humane mechanism. If you're opposed to that, you're opposed to them all. They will however offer up alternative solutions, that amount to deterring people from immigration in the first place. Let's look generally at what deterrents could be.

Immigration enforcement

Everything we've mentioned so far. If effective, it should deter most immigrants in the first place.

Removal of welfare

This is so obvious it shouldn't have to be stated. There should never ever ever be direct wealth transfers from citizens to illegal aliens, and is a direct violation of my first law of immigration theory: you cannot have open border and a welfare state. This isn't just meant to snub immigrants. There is no faster way to destroy a country than to institute this policy. If your philosophy is "well some foreigners are destitute so we should all be" then that should be your preferred policy. Enjoy the ensuing social and economic collapse.

Removal of services

We might further deny any public services to illegal immigrants, to the extreme of denying police protection. Basically it removes all advantages of entering in the first place. Some of these laws exist. For instance, it is illegal for a business to hire illegals, but this isn't greatly enforced.

Enriching the source nation

This is the one Wallophobes will actually suggest. If we just transfer enough wealth to them, they won't want to immigrate in the first place! Or more cynically put, if we just make our country shitty enough, no Mexicans will want to come here. I call this the Obama Doctrine. 

It's just a racket. It means that a nation of people can't work hard and build up wealth, because all other people are entitled to it. It's like me saying to a rich person, you need to pay to fix up my house or I'm gonna come live in yours.


  • The wall is not a change of policy
  • The wall is the most humane form of policy enforcement we have available
  • If you oppose the wall, you oppose the current immigration policy

* men in the gender-neutral sense, of course

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