SMSU professor: Wall a waste of money

Some Marshall residents, SMSU educators fear trade war

MARSHALL — Building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico would be a waste of money, a Southwest Minnesota State University professor told the Independent Thursday.

Dr. Tom Williford said the wall will not solve illegal immigration or the flow of drugs.

“I think its kind of a silly proposal,” Williford said. “It’s not going to prevent people from coming over.”

Because of NAFTA, Williford said Mexico imports a lot grain products from the U.S., which puts its farmers out of work. Those farmers come over and take on the jobs nobody else wants.

Williford said if immigration keeps them out, U.S. citizens would have to take those jobs, but at a higher wage, raising prices on the products they produce.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to build the wall erupted into a diplomatic standoff Thursday. Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto canceled a scheduled meeting with Trump. Trump appears to be embracing a proposal by House Republicans that would impose a 20 percent tax on imported goods.

“If they do negotiate, Mexico will have to do it from a position of strength,” Williford said.

If they refuse to negotiate, and the U.S. puts a 20 percent tariff on imports from Mexico, it would likely lead to a trade war, Williford said.

Gustavo Estrada, who works with Hispanic families involved in the Marshall Head Start program, wants the meeting between Trump and Nieto rescheduled.

“For me, to get a wall over there, it would be a conflict, like the Great Wall of China,” he said. “They need to work it out.

“There’s a lot of stuff (going on) there, like families. What I hear is President Trump says Mexico is responsible. It looks like the Mexican government doesn’t want the responsibility for this wall. It’s already affecting the economy. For me, those governments need to talk, but I don’t know where they are going to go with those things.”

Williford also believes both sides need to talk.

“The responsibility for border patrol is on both sides,” he said. “Mexico has already been working hard to patrol the border because they’re also victims of the drug war. If one party wants a wall, let them pay for it.”

Williford added that tightening up immigration laws and borders hurts people socially. Illegal immigrants would be cut off from family living in either country.

SMSU Spanish Professor Jose Losada-Montero is from Spain, but has a lot of empathy for fellow Spanish-speaking Americans and immigrants.

“I’m an immigrant, myself,” he said. “I came to New York in 2009 to get my Ph.D., then moved to Milwaukee. I’ve been in Marshall for one-and a-half years. I go home to Spain once a year. I don’t pay taxes there; I pay taxes here.”

Losada-Montero said that his work and taxes support America, and yet he doesn’t feel welcome by the White House.

Recently, the White House clicked off the Spanish translator on its website.

“Why would anyone do that?” Losada-Montero asked. “Spanish is the second most spoken language in the U.S. Forty million American-born citizens speak Spanish in their homes. It is not a foreign language.”

Losada-Montero said that he understands Trump wants to do something about undocumented aliens, but to shut out everyone who speaks Spanish is a different story.

“As an immigrant with friends in this country, it brings an emotional impact. It tells me that I’m not welcome. Spain is half the size of Texas, and its government puts six languages on its website. There is unlimited space on the Internet,” he said.

Losada-Montero said Marshall was built on immigrants, as were towns like New Ulm, Ghent and New Prague. He said they were European immigrants.

Losada-Montero also said illegal immigrants pay taxes. He cited Internal Revenue data that shows that $10 billion to $12 billion of tax revenue each year come from illegal immigrants.

“You don’t need a Social Security number to pay taxes,” he said. “The IRS doesn’t make a distinction.”