For almost a month, the government has been shut down, making this the longest government shutdown thus far in US history. President Trump says it could be “months, or even years” before it is reopened, unless he gets 5.6 billion dollars for his “big, beautiful wall.” Thus, we are getting a rousing lesson on negotiation.
Let’s make this clear: there is no national security risk at our southern border. The wall that Trump wants, seems to be more of a monument to white supremacy. It is not for the protection of the border; it is for the protection of racist, nationalist and xenophobic ideologies.
Would the money for the 1000-mile, 30-foot tall steel or concrete border wall be worth it? Let’s look at what we have now. Out of the 1,954 miles that make up the U.S.-Mexico border, we have 654 miles of barriers in strategic locations, of varying builds. Some have actually been updated and reinforced with money sanctioned by Congress.
The Department of Homeland Security reported that in 2017, Congress “provided $292 million to build 40 miles of a steel bollard wall in the San Diego, El Centro and El Paso Sectors (Border Patrol’s highest priority locations) in place of an outdated and operationally ineffective barrier.” This money was not to add to the border wall, but to replace parts of it. Trump had a republican majority in the House and Senate for almost two years and he did not add a single mile of new wall, or really push for it until now. Why? I think it is in part because he is enraged at how the Midterms turned out. It is also an opportunity to try to blame the Democrats, in order to weaken bids for 2020.
Many politicians and border patrol agents disagree with the wall, saying that it is not only costly but that it may even make their job even more difficult. For example, U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, a Texas Republican, has called a wall “the most expensive and least effective way to secure the border.”
Expensive is an understatement. According to MIT engineers, the wall would cost $31.2 billion and the Department of Homeland Security estimates the price coming in at around $22 billion. While these numbers are slightly different, they are higher than the 5.6 billion dollar price tag Trump has put on it.
Many arguments for a massive 1000+ mile border wall completely go against the same logic used to argue against banning certain kinds of guns. That logic being: if criminals want guns, they will get guns regardless of the law, so let’s not ban them.
Well… if actual criminals want to get into the US, they will find a way. What is a wall going to do? Same logic.
Proponents of the wall claim that the wall will stem the flow of drugs such as heroin, meth, fentanyl and cocaine. While there may be some minimal impacts from a wall, the costs far outweigh the benefits. The DEA has stated that the most common method in which transnational crime organizations bring illegal drugs into the US is through “concealed compartments within passenger vehicles or commingled with legitimate goods on tractor trailers.” This seems to suggest that the wall will not do much of anything to stop the flow of illegal drugs into our country.
While the number of border apprehensions did go up in 2018, they pale in comparison to years prior, such as 2000, where the monthly average for border apprehensions was 134,187. For 2018, the monthly average was 38,885. However, the months of October, November, and December apprehensions rose to about 50,000 a month.
Do apprehensions at the border equal crime? Is every single person apprehended carrying weapons, drugs or wants to harm people on the other side of the wall? No. People seeking asylum for a brighter future for themselves and their children are not inherently dangerous. Undocumented immigrants risk being detained or possibly dying. They know when they get here, they are coming to a place that, for the most part, doesn’t want them here. And yet, they still think the benefits outweigh the costs.
You can support security without supporting racism and xenophobia. It is possible to rationalize security of yourself, your home and your community without being racist and xenophobic. Do we not have locks on our doors and passwords on our devices? We do this because we all know that there are dangerous people out there that might want to hurt us. But these people are within a small portion of our society. When people begin generalizing and stereotyping entire populations as criminals, drug lords, rapists, etc, as Trump, his administration, and his supporters do, it moves away from rational reasons for security into blatant racism.
The way Trump talks about immigrants, specifically Mexicans, is a political tactic meant to instill fear and manipulate people into supporting an agenda. It’s not about security; it’s about stereotyping an entire group of people.
I agree that we need some kind of security at any point of entry into our country. We do it in our airports now, and they are measurably safer. In certain places, there should be barriers and boots on the ground. I do not support Trump’s proposal for the wall. With that being said, I can see some fair compromises that can be made. For one, updating the parts of the wall that had already been strategically built years ago, and equipping our border patrol agents with better technology to stop the actual threats. We already have 650+ miles of barrier; we don’t need more. What we need are updates to the current immigration and border control system. This means infrastructure improvements around ports of entry and more effective technology to detect the drugs that are being smuggled in. Our immigration system is not functioning effectively, and it is not fair for people trying to emigrate to this country. We are separating families, letting children die in our care and holding people in subhuman conditions. This is absolutely unacceptable. I’d argue it’s downright un-American, coming from a country that prides itself on being the moral compass of the world.