Why the Border Wall Is a Terrible Idea

Amidst the spectacle that is the Trump campaign for president, its easy to lose sight of the specific details of any policies he’s proposing. It’s understandable. Following the Trump campaign is a bit like staring into the sun; as hard as you try, you’re bound to stop once you get a headache.

But one particularly bad idea, that of building a border wall between the United States and Mexico, deserves examination, if only to understand just how bad an idea it is.

I’m on the record as favoring a significant increase in immigration to the U.S., but there are many reasons to object to Trump’s plan even if you don’t share my view.

First, as the Obama administration has pointed out, Mexico is a very important trading partner with the United States. While a border fence wouldn’t necessarily prevent trade, it is symbolically insulting to our southern neighbors, and it would serve as a distraction to this vital commercial relationship.

As Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker told Bloomberg Business, “There’s an enormous opportunity for us to do business together. That’s why we’re focused on building bridges and not building walls.” 

And in fact, since Trump insists that it’s Mexico that must pay for the wall, trade likely would be negatively impacted. In particular, the suggestion to impose tariffs on Mexico-U.S. commerce as a method of paying for the walls would certainly hurt trade relations, hurting both the American and Mexican economies. For someone selling himself as the “businessman” candidate for president, this is a strange suggestion.

His other proposals to pay for the law are even more ludicrous. These include confiscating some of the money that Mexican immigrants send home, increasing fees on legal immigration from Mexico, and increasing fees on temporary visas given to Mexican diplomats and CEOs. The first of these two measures harshly targets poor individuals and families who are often just trying to make better lives for themselves. The third measure could strain U.S.-Mexican political relations.

Furthermore, there’s little evidence that walling is effective at keeping people out. Despite increasing border security since 1994, including the construction of walls at many locations along the Mexican border, researchers have found that around 97 percent of undocumented migrants are still able to make it into the United States.

You might think that this means we just need a better fence. But there’s always a better fence: slightly higher, with more security. How much money are we going to throw at this supposed problem, rather than investing it in needed infrastructure, or any other number of other worthwhile programs?

Estimates of the cost of building a wall that stretches across the nearly 2,000 mile expanse range from $2 billion to $30 billion. This only includes the construction costs, and does not account for future maintenance and monitoring that would surely be required.

Crossing the border nowadays is not easy, and is often only done by those who desperately need to make the journey and are committed to doing so. Migrants who come to a border wall or fence are unlikely to be deterred. As one border patrol agent put it in to The Daily Beast:

“There is no barrier known to man that will stop someone who has traveled hundreds of miles to feed his family. He will go over, under, or around anything you put up.”

It’s much easier to find the weak points in a security system than it is to build a perfect security system. Janet Napolitano, former Secretary of Homeland Security, knew as much when she said, “You show me a 50-foot wall, I’ll show you a 51-foot ladder.”

And as Wendy Brown argues in Walled States, Waning Sovereignty, walls can even exacerbate the very conditions they are attempting to address. This is because the border wall’s patrol force intensifies the violence of border crossing, which leads border crossers to respond in kind by becoming more heavily armed. As increased militarization of our police forces hardly makes us safer, militarizing the border has predictable results: the border becomes a war zone.

To cross this war zone, migrants may find that their best option is to collaborate with drug smugglers who are highly skilled at navigating the border. This serves only to increase the funding of such activities, which may in turn be met with more resources going to the border patrol agents.

Brown also points out that the increased tensions surrounding the erection of border fences has led to American vigilantes taking it upon themselves to patrol the border. The rhetoric behind the call for border fences only further incites the fury of these kinds of outlaws, who have been linked to the murders of immigrants. If preventing immigration is really about preserving law and order, anti-immigration rhetoric is very often not.

Perhaps most ironic of all is that much of the barriers on the U.S.-Mexico have been built using the labor of undocumented workers. The Golden State Fence Company, for instance, was caught three times for employing unauthorized migrant laborers.

This just goes to show that the real “problem” of illegal immigration, such as it is, is that many Americans want undocumented immigrants to come here, whether to provide cheaper labor, drugs and whatever else. If we didn’t give them a reason to come here, they wouldn’t come.

We should be happy to welcome them into our country, along with other immigrants from around the world. But even if we don’t, there’s no reason to build a wall.

Photo Credit: Wonderlane

123 comments

Colin C
Colin C13 days ago

Thanks

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Lorrie O
Lorrie O1 months ago

Zero Tolerance: Tolerance for, 4 letters 4, Zero, the Supreme Truth Supreme Good Zero word. And Tolerance for, 4 letters 4, JHVH, Supreme Truth Supreme Good 0 (Zero) word. JHVH: a Goddess word God word, and a Guru word. For The Wall: Zero Tolerance Zero Dollar. $0.

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Jack Y
Jack Y5 months ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Y5 months ago

thanks

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John J
John J5 months ago

thanks for sharing

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John J
John J5 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Marija M
Marija M1 years ago

Cold war again?

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Rosslyn O
Rosslyn O1 years ago

Interesting thoughts... thanks

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Richard A
Richard A2 years ago

Thank you for this article.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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