If you are asked to name a single concrete issue that is singularly identified with any of the presidential candidates, then on the Democratic side Bernie Sanders’s call for free tuition at public colleges and to expand Medicare to cover everyone stands out. On the Republican side, the only one that comes to mind is Donald Trump’s promise to build a wall along the entire US-Mexico border and round up and forcibly deport every undocumented immigrant in the country That is his signature issue that he harps on over and over again, starting with his speech announcing his candidacy:
“I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”
But the cost of just building the fence, though large, is dwarfed by the estimated cost of $200 billion for the initial roundup and deportation and the $85 billion to operate the program for another five years . And then you have the cost of maintaining the wall. And you will have endless litigation costs as the government tries to seize private land to build the wall. Even if Trump gets Mexico to pay for the wall (which will never happen), the US will be on the hook for the mass deportation program and the maintenance.
Sanders, if elected president, would have a realistic shot at implementing his proposals because it benefits many and one can expect tangible benefits from them. Trump’s proposal, on the other hand, would have a much harder time since the cost is so high and the benefits are non-existent, except for partially satiating the xenophobic lust of his supporters. Building a wall in the middle of nowhere, as much of the border region is, makes little sense.
“There is a reason people don’t build fences in the middle of nowhere; it doesn’t change the enforcement profile in the middle of nowhere,” the migration expert said. “The existing fence has worked because of where it is, near populated areas. Both Democrats and Republicans have testified that they have the fencing they need,” [Marc Rosenblum, deputy director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute] said.
Maybe Trump thinks that migrants will be like these cowboys in Blazing Saddles.