Over the past three years, Donald Trump has been persistent about building a wall along the two thousand mile border between the United States and Mexico. Initially, he proposed that Mexico pay for it. It is an idiotic proposal and history will not be kind to such a half-baked idea with the ultimate goal of making “America White Again.”
There is ample historical evidence that walls do not work. I have visited walls in China, Berlin, and walled cities in Spain and Italy. The Great Wall of China took two thousand years to construct and failed to keep the Mongols from invading and eventually dominating numerous Chinese dynasties.
President Ronald Reagan hated the Berlin Wall and cheered when it came down.
In Spain, these ancient walls stand as historical reminders of divided empires of the Middle Ages. Spain’s walled cities failed to keep the Moors from invading and conquering more than half of Spanish regions, which they then ruled for seven centuries. And yes, I have also visited the thirty-foot high wall in Del Rio, Texas where the federal government has finished only sections of the wall. Walling off Texas from Mexico proved to be beyond anyone’s wildest budget imagination, generated property rights disputes and raised environmental concerns.
The majority of Americans oppose the construction of a 2,000-mile boundary of concrete or a steel wall. This past week’s political showdown between President Donald Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi revealed wide policy differences and suggested that the wall is doomed for failure.
First, there is the issue of property rights. It is not always possible or easy to remove residents from their homes and ranches. The government has not always been successful in its attempt to use Eminent Domain in acquiring property.
Just in the state of Texas, there are currently dozens of cases in the courts challenging the government’s attempts to acquire property on the banks of the Rio Grande. If the government doesn’t win all the legal challenges, there will be large gaps in the wall– seemingly a nightmare for the Border Patrol.
Secondly, numerous naturalist groups are prepared to challenge the construction of a wall because of the possibility of environmental damage to the local habitat.
In a New York Times article titled “Why a Border Wall Could Be a ‘Slaughter’ for Wolves, Bears, and Butterflies,” Times writer John Schwartz reported that the “National Wildlife Federation has also warned of problems” calling the erection of a continuous wall ‘one of the biggest potential ecological disasters of our time’.”(New York Times 1-25-19).
A significant obstacle to the construction of the border wall is the issue of full funding. Neither the Congress nor the public has a clue about how the White House came up with a $5.7 billion dollar price tag. This much is known: the border already has about 650 miles of wall scattered between Brownsville on the Gulf of Mexico to San Diego on the Pacific Ocean.
The White House proposal called for an additional 1,000 mile of the wall. Costs have to include labor, materials, transportation of materials, property acquisition, and long-term maintenance.
The Congress under Speaker Pelosi has expressed no desire to fund such a massive undertaking, and Speaker Pelosi mounted a successful opposition to such funding. Two funding proposals failed in the Senate this past week as well, forcing President Trump to “cave in” and end a partial government shutdown. The thirty-five-day shutdown was seen as an effort by the White House to use federal workers as hostages in return for funding of the wall.
Much has been said about a wall acting as a deterrent to illegal migration, drug smuggling, and prevention of terrorists entering the United States.
However, the majority of illegal migration is a result of generous visa policy. Researchers have shown that numerous visitors to the United States never return home. In fact, the majority of undocumented immigrants are those who overstay visas.
In an article, “Shortcut to Immigration: The Temporary’ Visa Program Is Broken,”
The Center of Immigration Studies reported that the “number of temporary admissions has more than tripled since 1985, from 9.5 million to 32.8 million, and the number of non-immigrant visas (NIV) has risen by 30 percent over the same period.”
Basically, if we are worried about increased immigration, we need to look no further than America ’s front door where the majority of immigration abuse occurs.
For an understanding of the smuggling of drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border, we only have to follow the trial of drug lord El Chapo in New York City Federal Court.
The New York Times’s article “El Chapo Trial Shows Cracks in Wall Plans” revealed that the drug lord’s “innovative smuggling networks typically went through legal checkpoints–not isolated stretches of the border where a wall might be an obstacle.”
The trial also exposed information about what many in border enforcement suspected: the number of tunnels to the United States from Mexico was many, and for the most part far too successful in facilitating drug traffic.
Political writer Atossa Araxia Abrahamian recently commented that “Walls are a response to deep existential anxiety, and even if the walls come down, or fail to be built in brick and stone, the world will guarantee us little in the way of freedom, fairness or equality.” (New York Times (1-27-19). Closed borders favor those with financial means to travel as tourists, study in the United States, enter with a business visa, or retire in the U.S.
The wall, according to Speaker Pelosi, is immoral. It is immoral because it violates the principles of inclusiveness and diversity. But it also seems immoral to spend billions to build a wall which will significantly reduce the number of funds that can be spent on healthcare and education. Funding a wall also detracts from the needed investment in rebuilding towns destroyed last year by hurricanes and fires. People should come first.
The President currently has a misguided approach to the nation’s top priorities. That must change and many expect that it can in 2020, if not sooner.
Finally, the United States is a frequent critic of human rights abuses in other countries. In mishandling the separation of children from their parents last year, America gave other countries plenty to criticize. The harshness of America ’s immigrant family separation policy, asylum and refugee denial, massive deportation, and conflicted promises to Dreamers makes it imperative that the Congress establish a comprehensive immigration policy sooner than later. American can be a leader in protecting human rights. Now is a good time to begin.