Analysis: The impact of Trump’s border wall on Southwest Florida

02-05-19 Drug smuggling plane and El Chapo - CBP

A private aircraft purchased in Michigan in 2014 by the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel, headed by drug lord “El Chapo” (inset), to smuggle drugs into the United States. A border wall will do nothing to stop drugs coming into the US on private aircraft.       (Photo: DHS)

Feb. 5, 2019 by David Silverberg

Tonight, President Donald Trump will stand before the full Congress of the United States and the American people and make his case for a wall along the entire length of the US southwestern border.

The merits of this proposal are quite debatable. But beyond the overall national arguments, would a wall have any impact on Southwest Florida?

The short answer is: directly, no. The longer answer is: secondarily, yes.

Let’s look at each in turn.

Direct impacts

According to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency in the Department of Homeland Security, Southwest Florida has only two official “ports of entry”— authorized places where people and goods come into the country from abroad.

One of these is Florida Southwest International Airport (RSW), which handles commercial, scheduled, non-stop international flights to and from destinations in Canada and Germany. RSW has both commercial flights and “general aviation”—the term for all other forms of civil flight that are unscheduled or non-commercial. General aviation in Southwest Florida usually means private aircraft like corporate jets or personal planes.

The other port of entry is Naples Airport, which handles only general aviation and passengers. “Port personnel are the face at the border for returning residents and visitors entering the United States,” according to CBP—i.e., airport employees rather than federal officials handle incoming passengers.

General aviation has long been a concern for border and security authorities both for its potential use for terrorist purposes and its longstanding use for smuggling of all kinds, particularly illicit drugs.

Indeed, Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel run by Joaquín Guzmán Loera (El Chapo) ran a complete fleet of private aircraft for drug smuggling. Their tentacles even reached into Michigan where in 2014 they purchased a turboprop Rockwell International Commander 690B from a used-aircraft broker there. (The plane was seized in Texas the same year before it could be flown to Mexico.)

As should be obvious, a border wall is not going to stop large shipments of drugs coming into the United States—or for that matter, into Southwest Florida—on general aviation flights or in aircraft passengers’ luggage.

(Since Southwest Florida has no international seaports, maritime smuggling and migration is less of an issue for the region. Most seaborne illicit drug smuggling comes into Florida through Miami.)

Secondary impacts

Secondary impacts of the border wall could be enormous in Southwest Florida. Federal funding would likely be diverted from internal and infrastructure uses to the border wall. These impacts could include:

  • Taking funding from Everglades restoration and Hoover Dike repairs;
  • Taking funds from disaster recovery and assistance programs;
  • A drop in federal support for any hurricane resilience projects to protect Southwest Florida;
  • Loss of federal resources for water purity projects and protections;
  • Diversion of customs and border security resources in Florida to the southwest land border.

In addition, President Donald Trump’s policies are hurting Southwest Florida agriculture. The lack of comprehensive immigration reform means there is no guest worker or seasonal program to legally supply temporary workers for Southwest Florida farms, particularly in Collier County. That in turn could lead to labor shortages, higher food prices and lower agricultural productivity, impacting the local economy.


President Donald Trump’s unnecessary and ineffective border wall will impact every American and will have demonstrably deleterious impacts on Southwest Florida while failing in its primary mission of keeping out undocumented migrants and illicit drugs.

To read more about the reasons to oppose the wall, read: America, don’t build this wall.

To read why Democrats are holding firm against the wall, read: Why Democrats can’t cave on the wall.

Liberty lives in light



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