Jim Calderbank

Jim Calderbank

I read with concern a recent guest column “Consider these facts about the U.S./Mexico border wall” discussing President Trump’s border wall to secure the U.S./Mexican border.

The column title misleads the reader by asserting it was a discussion of facts on this critical issue. Instead, personal opinions and dislike of President Trump and Congressman Meadows were the core of the guest column. I wanted facts, so I researched Government Publications myself to understand this issue. Is “the wall” political suggested, or for national security as President Trump states?

The Congressional Record shows numerous successful votes to fund and build walls or physical barriers along the Mexican border. In particular, the “Secure Fence Act of 2006” describes a “security and humanitarian crisis.”

Various committee discussions referenced the “need for up to $50 billion over 25 years” to secure the Mexican border. It passed overwhelmingly in both houses of Congress with Senators Obama, Clinton, and Schumer voting in favor. Note that each of these senators are quoted in The Congressional Record denouncing lack of action, while describing a National Security, drug smuggling, and human trafficking border crisis.

The bill passed with a bi-partisan veto-proof margin. Even Congresswoman Pelosi spoke and voted in favor on numerous barrier and security bills during this time, but to her credit she voted against the final bill. Senator Schumer however has consistently supported and voted for border security for two decades, including wall and barrier funding well in excess of President Trump’s request. His vote changed to no when proposed by President Trump.

THe writer supports President Trump that asylum seekers want to enter legally, and DHS policy under President Trump is to process asylum seekers only at ports of entry instead of during illegal border crossing apprehensions to speed their asylum adjudications.

Any border crossings other than at these ports of entry is “illegal and unlawful entry into The United States” by law and subject to deportation. Trump’s border security request that precipitated the government shut down included “additional funding and judges to speed asylum decisions.”

In addition, it contains legislation stopping family separation while asylum and deportation cases are heard, which increased during President Obama’s first term as unaccompanied minors from Central America started to flood the border. The federal court’s 1997 “Flores Settlement” mandated that after 20 calendar days children in U.S. custody captured at the border must be released “to foster families, shelters or sponsors”, while immigration law states illegal entry adults are deported to “their Country of origin.”

Only legislation can stop this separation policy dictated by court order. To be clear, asylum cases are a small percentage of illegal Mexican immigrants crossing the border, now it is complicated by Central American caravans rushing the border.

THe columnist supports President Trump’s statements not to build the wall where natural land barriers effectively act in place of a man-made barrier. When confronted during press interviews and briefings that $5 billion will not fund a wall along the entire border, President Trump has responded by agreeing the need to prioritize funds at ports and smuggling routes with more agents and barriers.

Letting the land topography act as an effective natural barrier. Also, the government would not “take the land” for a border wall as was asserted. He well knows the land would have dedicated rights-of-ways given by the landowner similar to utility easements, or government would purchase the land rights or the land itself as referenced in the 2006 Act.

While discussing drug smuggling in general, the columnist stated that “only a small fraction” of shipping containers are inspected. This is dangerously incorrect. In 2007 legislation was passed with funding mandating “100 percent of all shipping containers loaded in foreign ports destined for the U.S.” by land and sea be scanned for radioactive weapon signatures and imaged for “illegal contraband” at the foreign port.

According to a June 2016 CBO report this goal has been extended at various times, the latest being through 2018. According to the CBO the 100 percent mandate should be met for all 12 million containers bound for U.S. ports.

Containers are also inspected when they arrive at U.S. ports based on statistical samples, countries of origin, and algorithms to select high risk containers for additional drug and illegal contraband inspection using imaging, canine, and human inspection.

Specifically, the drug fentanyl is on both weapon and drug contraband lists for inspection after being weaponized by the Russians. It was used to end the October 23, 2002, terrorist attack; delivered via aerosol by the Russians, killing both the terrorists and hostages held in the church. All containers from China are inspected as mandated by the 2007 legislation and fentanyl is a priority according to DHS.

The columnist's opinion that fentanyl is mainly smuggled into the U.S. directly from China is misleading. More Chinese fentanyl now appears to be directly shipped to Mexico, avoiding U.S. shipping container inspections. This is also a favorite route to move luxury counterfeit goods to U.S. markets. The DEA’s “2018 National Drug Threat Assessment” Report, or “NDTA”, reflects this reality.

It also concludes that Mexican drug cartels are manufacturing an increasing amount of fentanyl in Mexico to combine with heroin, and for counterfeit opioid pill smuggling into the U.S. The NDTA concludes Mexico is the major supplier of heroin and fentanyl smuggled across the Mexican border.

Mexican drug cartels are the largest and most violent of the Transnational Criminal Organizations, or TCO’s, in operation today according to the NDTA. They supply and distribute the majority of illicit drugs in the U.S. and enter across the Mexican border.

DEA and DHS concluded that the Mexican Cartels’ three primary smuggling methods are border tunnels, traffic through points of entry, and human ‘mules.’ Mules are increasingly female and carry the cartel heroin and fentanyl across the Mexican border using traditional marijuana border crossings. The mules then are trafficked as slaves. A wall is a tool to prevent this.

I invite the reader to visit N.C. State rest areas on highway 23/74 to view the posters that DHS publishes and displays along drug routes. DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielson has made human trafficking and female slavery a priority in the fight against drug cartel operations coming across the border.

These posters encourage mainly female slaves for Mexican drug gangs, who came across the border as mules carrying drugs, to seek asylum in the U.S. Trump’s legislation expedites human trafficking asylum cases at federal facilities. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen has stated on the record and Congressional testimony that a border wall is critical to secure the Mexican Border.

The guest columnist's theme throughout his guest column was that a wall is ineffective. I can only refer the reader to results credited to border walls over the last 2000 years.

The Great Wall of China is historically revered for preventing horde invasions from conquering China, allowing their civilization and dynasties to flourish, saving thier limited resources for the people instead of the military.

After over a decade of suicide bombings in Israel with little relief, Israel built a wall at the porous Gaza border. Prime Minister Netanyahu at the United Nations addressing the questions of their wall’s legality, credited this border wall for “almost completely stopping these terrorist bombings” and also “reducing Hamas/Hezbollah weapon and drug smuggling” as well.

Interesting to note, Israel uses tunnel detecting technology partially derived from the “Security Fence Act 2006.” Tunnels near the Gaza Border have been successfully intercepted at previously unattainable rates.

Finally, in 2015 Hungary built in four months a layered structure and barbed wire barrier that cut illegal immigration from 4,500 per day to 15 per day. I appreciate the recent columnist's opinion that walls are ineffective, but there are countless examples of border walls successfully providing border security. National security is only possible with border security.

Finally, while the drug, criminal, and national security problems streaming across the Mexican border are well documented in government reports I have referenced throughout this column, I would be remiss not to mention the human suffering of illegal immigration, not the focus on suffering asylum seekers, but the suffering of U.S. citizens.

The epidemic of drug deaths caused by fentanyl, heroin being laced with fentanyl, methamphetamine, and counterfeit opioid pills. Death from product moved across the Mexican border. Criminal gangs that distribute drugs along with fear and murder of our citizens and law enforcement officers. The suffering of a family after the death of a loved one by drugs or violence. This, too, is human suffering that President Trump’s border security addresses with a wall as the critical component that is necessary for successful security.

In 2009 I attended a drug awareness clinic presented by then Jackson County Sheriff Jimmy Ashe. The presentation was aimed at large rental property owners to recognize drug and gang activity.

The speaker at the time stated that Mexican criminal organizations had developed a market strategy, a diversified product line of illegal drugs, and a distribution network run and enforced by Mexican cartels and gangs. He stated at that time “their high level of strategic planning and execution would make even major American corporations envious.” This is all exacerbated, executed, and enabled by a porous border.

Human suffering is also low skilled workers being replaced or having no growth in wages due to lower cost illegal immigrants taking over landscape, construction, and trade jobs. I watched illegal immigrants come into Jackson County and displace citizens in trades and construction, working for as little as $5 dollars an hour replacing carpenters making 20.

Illegal immigration depressed wages; depressed the workers that were replaced. Starting in 2004 I watched displaced workers come into my rentals with low self-esteem, disillusioned, some turning to drugs. This downward wage pressure is referenced in Bureau of Labor Statistic reports, union0funded reports, and best summed up in Harvard Economics and Social Policy Professor George Borjas’ paper “Yes, Immigration Hurts American Workers.”

He states that according to Census Bureau data over two decades that illegal immigrants “have increased the size of the low-skilled workforce by roughly 25 percent. As a result, the earnings of this particularly vulnerable group dropped by between $800 and $1,500 per year.”

The suffering by our most vulnerable from violence, drugs, and low wages directly attributable to illegal immigrants streaming across the Mexican border is unconscionable. Walls work in gated communities and borders around the world. President Trump’s wall will work here as well.

My diagnosis of the guest column is the writer allowed his emotions to become his facts. My recommended treatment is the writer not put a pen to paper again until he displays emotional discipline in his conclusions.

He must stop calling people liars as he used that slur 14 times in his column. The racially divisive statement that the wall is a convenient way “to talk about border security and make people afraid of brown folks” is unprofessional and not worthy of comment. The column spoke more of his hatred of President Trump than the column’s title of “facts about the U.S./Mexico border wall”. His column was a disservice to the reader.

Jim Calderbank is retired and lives in Waynesville. He currently owns businesses in Jackson and Haywood County. Jim has lobbied Congress and state legislatures on issues ranging from zoning and tax legislation to infrastructure and National Park funding over the last 30 years.

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