Democrats and Republicans looking for a public infrastructure project that pays for itself can find one at the U.S.-Mexico border. It’s called the wall.
A new study indicates that a barrier which prevents 60,000 illegal border crossings will recoup the $5 billion requested by President Donald Trump.
Setting a low bar, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) notes that the 60,000 figure represents less than 4 percent of the expected illegal border crossers over the next decade.
CIS cites a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine estimate that the average lifetime net fiscal cost of an illegal alien is $82,191 (2018 dollars). Adding children and grandchildren boosts the net per-capita expense to $103,826.
Independently, FAIR has calculated the annual taxpayer cost of illegal immigration at $134.9 billion a year, including expenses incurred at the local, state and federal levels.
CIS acknowledges its model has some gaps. It does not factor in local and state costs. Nor does it account for illegal aliens who entered the U.S. by routes other than the southern border. And it does not purport to rate the effectiveness of the wall.
But Border Patrol agents with firsthand knowledge of borderland terrain and logistics support more barriers as effective impediments to the illegal trafficking of drugs and humans. (Officers also want an end to catch-and-release policies.)
Even if future migrant flows were to drop to half of 2018 levels – which seems unlikely as new caravans ramp up in Central America — CIS estimates that a wall deterring 12 to 14 percent of illegal border crossers would still recover its costs.
Not many, if any, government infrastructure ventures can deliver that kind of return on investment. And if the Trump administration taps Mexican funds through negotiations and remittances, so much the better. Political grandstanding aside, there’s no reason for fiscally- and security-minded lawmakers to block the wall.