Houston Chronicle on border crossings:
If Donald Trump manages to win the presidency in a few weeks and if, within his first 100 days or so, the master builder begins constructing his "big, beautiful" wall along this nation’s southern border, its fate is likely to resemble other ill-conceived Towers of Babel, whether a shoddy apartment complex or a spec-built downtown skyscraper out of date before the ribbon’s cut. By the time the multibillion-dollar barrier gets built, its rust-colored iron pilings soaring — 40 feet! 50 feet! — into the blue Southwestern sky, it will be obsolete. In fact, as a solution in search of a problem, it already is.
According to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center, unauthorized immigrants from Mexico aren’t coming. Their numbers have steadily declined every year since 2007, the first year of the Great Recession. Although the overall unauthorized immigrant population in this country has stabilized since the recession ended, the total number from Mexico is now more than a million below its 2007 peak. Departures exceed arrivals.
Eduardo Porter, an economist writing in the New York Times, points out that Mexicans arriving in the U.S. in the 1980s and 1990s were born in the 1960s and 1970s, when their nation’s fertility rate was as high as seven children per woman. Mexico also was buffeted by repeated economic crises. "To Mexicans growing up at the time," Porter writes, "the prospect of a job in the prosperous American economy of that era was worth braving the Arizona desert and the Border Patrol."
Today’s Mexico is dramatically different. It’s older, its labor supply is growing at about the same pace as that in the U.S., and it no longer gets knocked off track periodically by economic storms. So, with the exception of an egoistic American politician, who needs a wall?
"Mr. Trump, knock down this wall!" most reputable economists would say (alluding to the one in the candidate’s fevered brain, that is). We already spend $30 billion a year on border enforcement; we don’t need to spend billions more on a useless barrier fated to be a boondoggle and an eyesore.
What we do need is thoughtful and thorough reform of our broken immigration system, reform not unlike the package approved by the U.S. Senate back in 2013. That bill continues to languish in the House, held hostage by immigration hardliners who would rather play politics with the issue than resolve problems.
San Antonio Express-News on bipartisan justice reform:
It appears to be pretty close to official. A bill reforming the federal criminal justice system appears dead.
Once touted as a bill that would enjoy bipartisan support and pass, it is now a victim of a divided GOP caucus in the House and Senate. And that is unfortunate, yet another sign of gridlock that must be surmounted.
Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas is a major architect of this bill, one clearly in the nation’s interest. The measure would reduce the length of mandatory minimum sentences and change the types of prior drug convictions that trigger these sentences. It would divert federal efforts to felons who commit violent crimes and broaden chances for early release of some prisoners who get credit for "good time" served.
But it has run afoul of presidential candidate Donald Trump’s "law and order" platform. Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia criticized the bill as not recognizing that the United States suffers from an "under-incarceration" problem. Others do not want to give President Barack Obama, who has pushed for such reform, a win in this election year.
The problem is that the United States does indeed suffer from over-incarceration problems. With both federal and state incarcerations involved, the U.S. leads the world in imprisoned residents, topping such sterling jailers as China, Russia and Iran.
While crime has surged in some urban areas, the nation is generally experiencing low crime rates compared to the levels seen in the 1990s, when these get-tough measures were approved.
And the get-tough laws have had a harmful impact on minority communities. People of color are overrepresented in federal prison. The prison population is 37.5 percent black and 34.4 percent Latino, but blacks are 13.3 percent of the U.S. population and Latinos 17.6 percent.
Our hope is that after November, the divisiveness stalling this bill will give way to recognition that many of the country’s ailments are being unaddressed.
Another hope is that those states that haven’t already — some have enacted reform without increases in crime rates — will also recognize that harsh sentencing and other get-tough measures have been counterproductive.
For the moment, however, count Cornyn’s worthy bill as just one of the latest casualties of continuing polarization and gridlock.