A ‘Smart’ Border Wall Is Just as Racist as a Physical Barrier

The government shutdown is over at last, thanks to Democrats who brokered a deal to keep Trump happy and get America back to work. That deal didn’t include even one penny for a physical wall along the border, as demanded by numerous constituents — but it did contain what’s being billed as funding for a “smart wall.”

Democrats figure that since they can’t reason with the president, they’ll match his $5.7 billion figure with a funding bill that enhances “border security,” but doesn’t contribute to building an actual wall.

If you’re wondering what the heck a “smart wall” is, you’re not alone. Most people don’t really understand what the term means — and that’s by design from both sides of the wall.

While a “smart wall” isn’t a physical barrier, it’s every bit as racist, unproductive and horrific as a physical wall. The concept draws on the apparatus of the security state to normalize the militarization of the border with 21st century technology.

Take action: Join Care2 users like you in telling Democrats “NO” to this racist and costly proposal

We don’t know what this “enhanced border” or “smart wall” might look like exactly, but plans will roll out in coming weeks as Democrats attempt to appease the president’s border obsession with a compromise they think will be more palatable to Americans.

They say they care about border security too, so they’re pitching a large spending package on more personnel at the border, infrastructure investment at ports and checkpoints, and a whole lot of technology — specifically, drones and sensors.

To the Democrats’ credit, they also want to see more immigration judges to address the unconscionable backlog in immigration courts. And they’re calling for more humanitarian assistance for immigrants.

But back to the tech. Democrats are drawing upon the same tech tools that have been criticized by civil rights activists for years, but especially in this moment. And even members of Congress are correctly identifying algorithms like those that would be used at the border as racist.

We’ve already seen how this equipment is used for surveillance and intimidation, even when migrants are going about perfectly legal business. Keep in mind that asking for asylum is not illegal — and that in order to do so, people have to get to the border.

The border is not a military entity, but the “smart border” proposals would have a heavily militarizing effect — with equipment used to harass and intimidate people and the dispatch of ever-higher numbers of Border Patrol officers. This will be harmful for communities along both sides of the border, as well as those crossing it — legally and otherwise.

And it should be noted that being in the country without documentation is a civil — not criminal — violation, so sinking resources that are being used to criminalize black and brown communities into border security sends an unmistakeable message.

The “smart wall” would rely on flashy technology that is still fundamentally designed to intimidate and deter, not address the underlying problems with the immigration system in the U.S., advocates argue. Instead, Democrats should be fighting to address the immigration court backlog; ending the use of immigration detention for people of all ages; changing immigration law to make it more welcoming; honoring its responsibility to accept refugees as a member of the global community; and addressing the foreign policy that has contributed to violence and suffering all over the world, driving people to the U.S. for shelter.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

68 comments

Dot A
Dot A5 months ago

I side with people. All people. We cannot make this a better world unless we are aware of how wonderful all people are when encouraged to live fulfilling, meaningful, and purposeful lives. I like so many of the previous comments which are compassionate towards those who are caught in circumstances of abuse and violence. It does make sense to activate a 'virtual' wall that is kinder to the creatures of the land as well. We must always use kindness in every solution to every problem. Otherwise 'we,' ourselves, become the greater problem.

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Dot A
Dot A5 months ago

This world has become exceedingly complex, and world populations are finding that what used to be managed by physical remedies, can now be outwitted by the modern tools which technology and advanced tools which are now available because of what science has made useful, such as X-rays which can detect what's beneath the earth or inside a metal truck, - our management outdated if we assume that a concrete wall is what will alter reality. We need higher concepts of thinking to find solutions, and we also need to adhere to our moral values while doing so. Yes, - this country is a beacon of hope for many struggling people. However, the country also must be logical with how much this country can do, and for how many people. Just insulating our nation is not an ideal solution. I think we'll find that if we have such an approach, we are isolating ourselves from the rest of the wonderful human beings across this amazing planet. We need friends in this world. We do.

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bedini5 months ago

Brian F
I understand your reasoning but the problem is that the combination of desperation and hope propels people to try anyway, wall or no wall. Of course the answer would be to solve the problems in the countries of origin and I hope that happens, but until such time what we need is sensible management of immigration, not inhumane treatment and the fuelling of hatred and fear against desperate people who have done us no harm.

As for your claim of 'the will of most Europeans', for your information here are some statistics:
in Germany the AfD (Alternative for Germany) is at 25%
Le Pen in France, 20%
Party for Freedom (Holland) 13.1%
Salvini in Italy 33%.
I could go on.... And yes, that is a lot of people, but it is NOT a majority.

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Brian F
Brian F5 months ago

Annabel B We all want to show compassion for people living in poverty, the threat of violence, and very difficult situations, but we can't accept everyone. We need to try to help people in their home countries. I'm not saying to not accept any refugees fleeing wars or other horrible atrocities, but no nation can accept endless waves of immigrants. Their has to be a limit. It is not racism or xenophobia, but just the will of most Europeans.

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Brian F
Brian F5 months ago

Annabel B Their is still the problem of numbers. If you accept one boatload of Africans, and endless wave will keep comming. If the USA accepts caravans of Central Americans, it will have never ending caravans of immigrants trying to enter the country. We want to help people living in poverty and suffering from gang violence, but we can't help everyone. South of our border in Mexico, their are mass murders as drug cartells fight to control areas. These cartells have bought off the police and politicians. We can't blame all the problems with violence in Mexico and Latin America on the drug use of Americans. We don't want this violence in our country.

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Thomas M
Thomas M5 months ago

Signed

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bedini5 months ago

Paul B
It's naive to believe that a wall will stop people trying to get into the U.S. History shows that where there's a will there's a way. If it were safer and easier to enter the U.S. legally that would solve the problem. These people don't WANT to be illegal. You only resort to paying people smugglers because you know how prohibitively difficult it is to cross the border legally, without ending up in camps before being deported and having your children separated from you.

Drugs: the drugs coming into the U.S. from Mexico are smuggled aboard commercial vehicles crossing the border legally, not brought by families in their backpacks.

Criminals: there is no evidence that Central American immigrants have added to crime rates in the U.S. On the contrary, in areas populated by immigrants, the crime figures tend to be LOWER than average. (Sorry I haven't time to provide sources but you can find them yourself if you look).

Smuggled children and girls for the sex trade: yes, this is appalling. But again, would a wall solve this problem?

It's sad to see an intelligent person like you accepting uncritically the scare-propaganda put out by your president. We have the same problem in Italy where folks fall for the lies of the anti-immigrant far right. This is tragic and leads to yet more unnecessary suffering.

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Knud T
Knud Thirup5 months ago

Signed/shared

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Paul B
Paul B5 months ago

"I have to say I find it disheartening to see how many people on a site called Care2Causes seem not to 'care' about human suffering. Okay, answer back....."

That IS the point Annabel, we do care about human suffering.... those kids being smuggled, the drugs that kill so many, the deaths from treacherous crossings, the deaths of innocent citizens at the hands of all the criminals that freely cross into the country. THOSE are the people we care about. Don't you?!?!?

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Sue H
Sue H5 months ago

Petition signed 1.29,19.

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