Donald Trump is in hot water lately for treating a writer with a joint disease the same way he treats everyone else. Most people, including me, felt Trump’s behavior was appalling. If Trump shakes off that controversy and goes on to win the presidency, he has some big campaign promises to keep about immigration.
Let’s talk about that.
Is it possible to deport 11 million people, build a wall, and make Mexico pay for it? It might be. Regular readers of this blog know that I often suggest what I call the “bad version” of an idea to see if you can fix it. Today I want to see if you can imagine a way Trump keeps his campaign promises on immigration and makes everyone happy, including Latinos.
In a prior post I predicted that Trump has a “third-act” surprise on immigration. I don’t know what that surprise will be, so today is just an example of one way to go at it.
For starters, let’s say President Trump proposes a law to create temporary (for one year) Mexican embassies out of every United States Post Office. Nothing will change physically, and the business of the Post Office would continue as usual. The only difference is that an illegal immigrant can fill out a form in any Post Office to become temporarily legal while a path to citizenship gets worked out. In the meantime, we make sure everyone is at least paying taxes on earnings.
Under this model, an undocumented immigrant walks into a Post Office – which we count as deportation – and fills out a form to become a temporary legal resident. When the pre-American walks out of the Post Office, he or she is in the system and considered legal until a permanent status is determined.
So the answer to whether we can deport 11 million people is probably yes if we do it with brains instead of handcuffs. It could be as easy as making forms available in the Post Office. We already do that with tax forms, and the starting point here is to get everyone on the tax rolls, so it seems a natural path.
Let’s also assume that there are a variety of paths to citizenship. For example, if the applicant has been working and paying taxes for years, with no criminal record, he’s in. If he joins the military, he’s in. And so on.
But what about the illegal immigrants who don’t have jobs and fear they will not meet the requirements of citizenship? What would cause them to register with the system?
That’s where the wall comes in.
Trump already told us it would be “big, beautiful wall with a door.” Let’s imagine the beautiful door as more of an arch situation.
[Photo of St. Louis Arch and surrounding city]
Wait, no. That’s not big enough. We want something more like the 9th Wonder of the World. We want a gateway to Mexico that is a tourist attraction, like Las Vegas meets Mount Rushmore meets the Statue of Liberty. Restaurants, shopping, shows, entertainment, and more. We want our border states to beg for the right to host this gateway city because it will be a boon to tourism.
And you know what it would take to build something so impressive, and staff it in perpetuity?
Answer: Lots of workers
Donald Trump’s real estate development talent multiplied by the resources of the United States creates a lot of potential. But the government doesn’t want to be in the tourism business directly. So imagine that in this situation the United States is mostly a project manager and organizer for free enterprise. Let’s say the government buys all the land and leases it to hotels, casinos, and more. The landlord always makes the money, and that would be the United States.
And on the other side of the arch, in Mexico, the same sort of development happens. That’s how Mexico makes enough money (tourism, rental income) to “pay for the fence.” Assuming bond financing, both the U.S. and Mexico should make an eventual profit. And that money can go to fixing up the unimpressive parts of the border fence over time.
Now let’s say the United States offers a guaranteed job at the wall – with a path to citizenship – for anyone who relocates to work on it. This would be strictly optional. Moreover, any legal citizen would get the same offer of a job, just to keep things fair(ish).
How good would the jobs be? Suppose we assume the wall construction project is designed from scratch to be an amazing place to work. Bring the entire family. Food is great, healthcare is provided, and school too. Learn a trade for six months before starting work. And let’s say the entire environment is designed for English immersion training. Mix in the American unemployed who join the fun and you have an attractive community for work and play. With lots of soccer fields for fun.
And let’s say the economic burden for building this great environment is placed on the private businesses that want a piece of the hotel, restaurant, and gambling world to come.
A side benefit of building this gateway city is that it will absorb a huge number of workers on the Mexican side that might have otherwise considered coming illegally to the United States.
Now let’s keep thinking big about what this “wall” actually is. I can imagine a bullet train operating inside the wall, with shops and entertainment on each side, at least within the gateway city. I can imagine solar panels all along the top. I can imagine condos built into the wall. You can add more ideas. The point is that “wall” is thinking small. Think gateway city.
But let’s add one more twist to this idea to get the bad blood behind us and start treating Mexico like a good neighbor. Let’s make that archway to Mexico more of a Statue of Liberty situation – a permanent thank-you to Mexico – for the labor that helped make the United States great. Let’s turn it into a positive.
The gateway city would only protect a tiny part of the actual border, but it would generate permanent revenue to fund border control elsewhere.
I can also imagine designating large stretches of the border as drone and robot test sites for American businesses. I think we are within ten years of having full robotic border control (non-lethal). We should make the border regions available for private robot/drone businesses to test their solutions. We know we will someday need to contain the ISIS Caliphate borders, and this is good practice. The only requirement for testing on the Mexican border is that your robot has to operate on some common government communication network so no robot operates independently.
None of this matters unless Trump convinces Latinos to vote for him. Would they vote for Trump if he made deportation a trip to the Post Office, offered to build a friendship arch to Mexico, provided good jobs and training plus English immersion to all?
And suppose he offered to do it at a profit for the United States?
As I said, this is the “bad version” of an immigration/wall plan. Does it have potential with some tweaking?
We used to think big. I miss that. I also miss the days when we showed who we were instead of talking about it. Immigration gives us a chance to decide who we want to be. I say let’s continue to be a nation of problem-solvers, the likes of which the world has never seen.
Note: Disqus locked me out again so I won’t be commenting until we find a way to replace Disqus.