AUSTIN — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Thursday told President Donald Trump that the border fence in El Paso helped drastically reduce the city’s crime rate and shows why a wall along the nation’s southern border would be effective.
Let’s review. Before Operation Hold the Line commenced in 1993, the Border Patrol’s policy was cat and mouse. The Border Patrol would drive around the city looking for people that looked like they might have entered from Mexico illegally. The agents would cruise the bus stops, and drive around downtown, and stop people and ask for documents. If the Border Patrol determined that the people they stopped likely entered from Mexico without documentation, the agents would take them back to Juarez and drop them off. Some days the Border Patrol would catch and return the same people twice.
The river under the bridges downtown was busy. Vendors on the southern side sold elotes and burritos. A few opportunistic entrepreneurs, lancheros, would ferry immigrants across the river on truck tire inner tubes, because one of the clues that the BP would look for was wet pant legs.
Teenagers, andando de vago, would cross into El Paso on a goof. They’d come by my house in Barrio Heights and steal my rake and my hose, and then go the neighbor’s and offer to do yard work. At that time, most of the houses in my neighborhood had burglar bars. My house had burglar bars. Today, my house doesn’t have burglar bars.
The penalty for those caught entering the U.S. illegally was a ride home.
Operation Hold the Line stopped those casual incursions. Operation Hold the Line pushed illegal immigration out to more dangerous parts of the country. People had to be more desperate to try to cross there. But they were, and they did, and many of them died.
The difference between before Operation Hold the Line and after was the difference between a porous border and a much less porous border.
The existing policies and physical barriers reduced illegal immigration in El Paso by, what? Ninety-eight percent? Hardly anybody crosses the river these days except at the Ports of Entry. Building an expensive wall around here sure looks like a waste of money from where I sit, in Barrio Heights.
We’re looking at a question of diminishing returns. Are we ever going to reduce illegal immigration to zero? Not likely. Do we need to spend $5.7 billion to reduce it a sliver more? Seems like we could spend the money more effectively.
It’s like what our local government is doing. Would we rather spend $180 to $250 million on a downtown arena? Or should we let the taxpayers decide how they want to spend their money?
Which, do you suppose, would be of more benefit to the taxpayer? Which, do you suppose, would stimulate our local economy more?