Much has been made about the “great wall” Trump wants to build along the U.S.-Mexico border. I wanted to weigh in on Sunday, but I didn’t.
Usually, I have a commentary section as part of my News Roundups. But on Sunday, January 29, I left it out.
Why Did I Leave Out My Commentary?
For one thing, my News Roundup Commentary would have been too long. I generally want to keep that text to 300 words or less, but I need more than 300 words to give this topic justice.
The topic of immigration is too complicated. Although I can’t address all aspects of immigration, there are some I wanted address in the context of the United States.
I will have more information about the “Muslim Ban” tomorrow night and plan to update this week’s News Roundup accordingly.
Now, I know most opponents of Trump’s positions like to talk about the overall importance of immigration in the U.S. and how it is tied to this country’s identity. But for this post, I would like to focus on the practical aspects of building a wall.
About That Wall Again …
On January 25, 2017, Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at border security
Section 2, Item (a) of the order called for the construction of the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Sec. 2. Policy. It is the policy of the executive branch to:
(a) secure the southern border of the United States through the immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border, monitored and supported by adequate personnel so as to prevent illegal immigration, drug and human trafficking, and acts of terrorism;
It fulfills one of his campaign promises, but it is not a welcome or realistic development.
Why? There are a few reasons.
1. The Wall Would Cost Too Much.
The cost of the wall is estimated to be as low as $15 billion U.S. tax dollars, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. But it could cost as high as $25 billion and the wall wouldn’t even cover the entire border.
Some senior administration officials offered that a 20% tax on imports coming from Mexico would help pay for the construction.
If implemented, such a tax was estimated to bring in about $10 billion a year into the U.S., but there would likely be retaliatory action by Mexico. And Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has repeated said that his country will not pay for the wall.
2. The Wall Would Not Secure the Border By Itself.
As pointed by numerous sources, any border is only as effective as the supporting surveillance.
Seth Stodder, who was the policy director for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection under Bush and an assistant secretary of homeland security for the border under Obama, points out the measures taken since the 1990’s, when illegal border crossings approached 2 million a year. Among these measures was the tripling of the Border Patrol force, installing cameras, and the deployment of drones.
There are twice as many Border Patrol agents now than there were a few years ago and there are strategic checkpoints along roads. All this has helped somewhat.
But in areas where they are no officers, determined people can climb over the fence to get into the United States. Any terrorists who wanted to enter the U.S. via the border with Mexico would overwhelm defenses. It does not matter how tall the wall is.
Also, the wall is superfluous since there is already a fence along the border with Mexico. The Secure Fence Act of 2006 authorized the construction of the border between the United States and Mexico.
Speaking of that legislation …
3. The Terrain Would Make a Wall Unfeasible.
The border between the United States and Mexico is roughly 2,000 miles wide, from El Paso, TX to San Diego, CA. Only about 700-odd miles could be covered with fencing and there are gaps in that fencing.
Much of the border between the two countries is covered by the Rio Grande. It winds its way through mountainous regions and drains into reservoirs. Additionally, the way it has flowed in the past has led to border disputes between the two countries.
4. There Will Be Land Disputes Within the United States.
The fencing we currently have is situated in such a way that has created logistical gaps in the land. Some Americans already reside on the Mexican side of the fence and if the fence was completed, it would bisect some properties.
5. Construction Would Thus Lead to Even More Litigation.
Much of the border land in New Mexico and Arizona is owned by the government. But much of land in Texas is privately owned. If construction is to take place across the entire U.S.-Mexico, many lawsuits will be filed. Either the United States will sue property owners in order to build the fence or property owners will sue to prevent the government from intruding on their land. And Trump will be violating land treaties with indigenous tribes.
When the fence was constructed under the Secure Fence Act of 2006, Department of Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff waived 36 regulations. He also used the REAL ID Act of 2004 to grant him the authority.
The federal government sued homeowners and property owners in order to construct the fence. In turn, Texans, people from indigenous tribes, and environmentalists have sued the federal government. This will happen again.
6. People Coming into the United States Have Few Options.
Stodder also argues that many people are coming from Latin America to seek asylum. However, our immigration system is not prepared to adequately deal with the number of people coming into the country.
More and more people are coming from Central American countries to escape violence and oppressive governments. While illegal immigration by Mexican citizens has somewhat decreased, there are increasing numbers of undocumented immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Many of them are unaccompanied minors.
7. There are Other Unintended Consequences a Wall Cannot Address.
In a report by Carla N. Argueta, there was an assessment of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Customs and Border Protection program to curb illegal immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border. The report tries to measure any successes from enhanced strategies while also weighing the unintended consequences, like migrant deaths and increased violence in the border cities.
Migrant deaths can occur if those looking to enter the United States try to go to areas where the wall isn’t present. If only the areas with favorable terrain are covered, that leaves more dangerous areas for people to enter.
Why many may feel this supports the construction of the wall, I cannot agree due to humanitarian concerns.
8. Additionally, a Wall Would Make It Harder for People to Leave.
I would like to point out how it is often harder to leave the United States than it is to get in. Many of the people (as many as 40%) who are here illegally have overstayed their visas and aren’t allowed to leave without the proper documentation. And a wall will make it even harder for people to leave.
Now, This Is Not to Say …
That I am for open borders. I would like there to be some controls to slow down the flow of illegal immigrants into the country. And I am definitely concerned about dangerous criminals entering the country, too. But a wall is not the solution because of how impractical it is.
Basically, when dealing with immigration, the human element is key. Border agents are our best defense when it comes to enforcing immigration laws. And exceptions may be made for those who genuinely need to escape violence in their countries. Additionally, we need to think about landowners in the United States, and that includes Native Americans.
The decision should not be unilateral, it should be compassionate, and it should be based on rational thought.