Jonah Goldberg endorses the idea of a wall between the USA and Mexico. He ignores the important question though: will it work? It's funny that he perceives wall opponents as being disingenuous, but what evidence does he offer that the wall will 'work?' He assumes it:
It's funny, even the most liberal advocates of “comprehensive” immigration reform — Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, et al. — insist they're for “securing the border” in principle. It just seems they oppose it in practice. They may start by arguing that it can't be done, but when it is demonstrated that it can be done — somehow, putting men on the moon can't really be easier than something even poor nations do every day — they quickly fall back to the only argument that has any traction: symbolism.
Jonah also talks about opposition to the wall here. He notes that few people oppose the wall based on anything other than symbolism. On that, I can't disagree. I don't see any arguments being made that the wall won't work. So I will go ahead and make one:
It's currently estimated that 40% of the illegal immigrant population (4-5 million people) entered the US on a visa and overstayed (check here and here, for example). If you were to build a wall, you would continue to have a flow of illegal immigrants from visa overstays. All things being equal, these would tend to increase - as would-be illegal immigrants would now try to come here on visas. You'd also continue to have some flow of illegals who enter via tunnels and boats, as well as illegal crossings from Canada.
On that last point, it's currently easy to visit Canada from Mexico. You need a Mexican passport, a return ticket, a firm itinerary while in Canada, and proof of $100/day spending money during your stay, or a statement from a Canadian sponsor that he or she will pay your bills. You do not need a visa. (It's all here, in Spanish). Once in Canada, the only thing between you and the US is the world's longest undefended border. So if the wall is built and is effective, there will have to be tougher rules for Mexican citizens to visit Canada.
Of course, this assumes that there remains a job lure for illegals. But I don't see why there would not be one. As others have pointed out, if you have a totally-secure 'guestworker' card, you'll only force illegal workers to get forged documents indicating that they're citizens. And how hard is that?
All this is merely to point out that wall or not, if illegal workers continue to be lured by the offer of work, there are still ways to get here. You have to consider all of them. Will fewer immigrants come if we build a wall? Probably. Will Americans be satisfied if we manage to reduce the annual flow to just a few hundred thousand? Well... I'm not the one running for office.
Pick your movie quote for my argument: 'follow the money,' or 'life finds a way.'
Update: Welcome Corner readers, and thanks, Jonah, for the traffic. While you're here, look around, or check out something else that Jonah would be interested in.