Two Men and a Wall: A Rational Debate
On a blustery January eve, two figures struggled against the torrid rains and icy winds of American winter (except in Florida) as they trudged home from a day’s work through town.
“My friend this night is cold and the storm we weather looks poised to end no sooner than your President’s shutdown.”
“Indeed” chuckled his companion by now well accustomed to the game of political jabs. “though perhaps we stand a better chance simply waiting for summer than for Pelosi and Schumer to see reason.”
“Let us retire for now to this friendly local tavern for a time. Mayhaps an ale or two will see this weather pass” he said beckoning to the flickering sign of the Applebee’s Grill and Bar through the downpour.
‘Twas not long inside the establishment before the gentlemen were seated with their share of brews and jalapeño poppers and they came to talk as friends eating at a table tend to. And of course, times being as they were the talk came to politics in short order.
“You do know Trump is wrong” chided the one harkening the conversation to earlier jabs.
“Not only is this shutdown insane but ‘The Wall’ is a stupid idea. It won’t even work. Illegal immigrants can tunnel underneath use the coast etc. People find a way regardless of how impressive it is. Just think of East Germany; how thousands made it through a fully staffed shoot-to-kill military barrier.”
The other looked on thoughtfully. While his friend was an ideological opposite he happened to value the common challenge to his beliefs; after all, how else could he be secure in their validity?
“The wall doesn’t exist in a vacuum” he remarked. “Security comes in layers. No individual security measure is impregnable, but multiple layers are nearly so. West Germany prepared for a Soviet invasion using defense in depth. Remember, even our intelligence agencies go by the holy trio of physical, electronic, and administrative layers of security. We need the first and I’m at least willing to hold out for it.”
His companion rolled his eyes. While he held no malice towards the conservative across the table, he admittedly at times found their talking points exhausting.
“But surely you can see that the Wall isn’t in the right place for the physical security. Most illegal immigrants in America didn’t cross the border they flew or floated here with legal visas and overstayed. In fact,” he quickly fumbled for his phone, “In 2006, the Pew Research Center calculated that more than a third of all unauthorized immigrants entered lawfully and then simply overstayed their visas. But by 2012, visa overstays accounted for 58 percent of all new unauthorized immigrants. A wall will do nothing to stop these people from entering.”
His friend grinned slightly for he believed he had caught his counterpart.
“Aha but see?! You mischaracterize the problem because you’ve been taught that we simply hate immigrants. But it is not so. See, those people might be here illegally and part of that issue, but they aren’t salient to the *border security* crisis whatsoever. People who flew in on a Visa had whatever they brought in checked and we at least know they’re here. We’re worried about terrorist and cartel cells crossing unhindered first and foremost at the border. This is why it is a national security issue.”
His companion turned debate opponent sat and thought for a bit at this. He hadn’t quite thought of it that way and despite not quite agreeing he at the least appreciated the clarity. However, he had more to say.
“Even if the wall isn’t entirely stupid this shutdown is pointless. It won’t lead to a wall. In fact, Trump isn’t even being honest with his wall demands at all. For example, according to the Cato Institute: An estimate for a border wall area that only covered 700 miles was originally 1.2 billion. But it ended up costing 7 billion and that’s only for 700 miles. According to MIT engineers, the wall would cost $31.2 billion. Even Homeland Security estimates it at $22 billion. Trump’s five he’s hostaged us for won’t cut it and we’re the ones footing the bill.”
His companion shrugged, “I can’t imagine anybody knows exactly how much it will cost as it has yet to be truly started, let alone finished, but we *do* know illegal immigration is said to cost about $150 Billion per year. Even your most hyperbolic numbers certainly seem modest in comparison. Not to mention savings for border patrol.”
His friend smoldered with that information for a moment. The point was fair, but hadn’t his counterpart just claimed it was a security issue? He decided to push a bit more.
“So much for the small government conservative” he jokingly sneered.
“Not only are you lot fine spending a fortune on medieval defense technology you’re seizing people’s homes and property to do it! I can’t imagine people being forced out of where they lived by the Feds using eminent domain stays true to your ideals of limiting the government’s reach. Not to mention the environmental harms and costs.”
The conservative pondered for a moment. It was true he very much disliked eminent domain and the idea of the government taking his home by force would normally be enough to make the blood boil. At last he spoke.
“Would you prefer not to have a national highway system?” he directed at his buddy. “Sure, there will be some court battles over land but are you comparing a few of those kinds of battles with the national security of the United States?”
He continued, “Eminent domain requires that the land be paid for and while that might take a while to get done doing nothing at the border takes forever to accomplish nothing. Now I’m no fan of eminent domain but it was included in our institutional design for reasons like this. And while even being paid for your land isn’t total solace, sometimes the practical needs of a country have to come into play, as with those highways we all rely on.”
His companion considered his answer for a moment before a glance outside pulled him away from the topic.
“I can’t say I agree but you make a rational point at least. All the same the storm seems to have passed outside let us conclude our march home before another comes.”
“Ohh don’t worry my friend another will come as sure as Hillary will run for president every time.”
With that the two shared a hearty laugh and continued along their way; in disagreement on politics but not on enjoying the other’s company through their shared grind of a yet another blue-collar work week all the same.