Trump’s Troubling Wall: Evaluating the Impracticality of the President’s Proposal

Walls have been a symbol of power and security throughout history. However, some of the most famous walls have failed, and people always have been able to find a way around them. Take for example the Great Wall of China, the walls of Constantinople, and the Berlin Wall. The Great Wall was formerly the world’s largest man-made object, but it did not work against its enemies. The walls of Constantinople were successful for many years, but were bypassed by the Ottomans who captured the city, and the Berlin Wall lasted a short 28 years, existing today in only museums and memorials. These three walls are some of the most well-known to humankind, but all have proved ineffective at physically limiting the movement of people. 

 “Human migration routes are like rivers: If they hit an obstacle, the flow finds a way around it.” –Los Angeles Times Editorial Board

The main problem with many walls is their ineffectiveness. Even though there will be difficulty getting through them initially, people will adapt and always find a way around. If even these three walls could not keep enemies out, then how will Trump’s wall stop immigrants from coming through? Ultimately, Trump’s wall at this point in time is not necessary for everything it will cost, and will end up doing more harm than good.

The True Cost of the Wall

Building a wall between the United States and Mexico has been a focal point of Trump’s since the beginning of his campaign in June 2015: “I would build a Great Wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall, mark my words.” However, Mexico’s president, Enrique Pena Nieto disagrees.

“I’ve said time and again; Mexico won’t pay for any wall.”

Besides Mexico, the wall would supposedly be paid for in a number of ways. One way the wall would be paid for is through increased tariffs (fees) on imported goods. However, having the entire wall be paid for through tariffs would mean quadrupling the existing fee, which would cause U.S. importers from Mexico to look for other places to manufacture and produce their products. Another way the wall would be paid for is by taxing remittances (money sent home from Mexican immigrants in the U.S.) which totaled 24.8 billion dollars in 2015. This wouldn’t work either because Mexicans could simply use an unauthorized third-party source to transfer money. Whatever the case, the wall will be extremely expensive no matter who pays for it, not just in terms of money, but for wildlife and the environment too.

President Trump claims the border wall will only cost between 10-12 billion dollars, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell estimates it will cost between 12-15 billion dollars. However, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security internal report measured the cost as much as 21.6 billion dollars, and a cost analysis from Politico approximates the annual maintenance of the wall to be 750 million. On top of this, there are many obstacles besides the monetary cost of the wall. One of these obstacles is the land which the border will run through. The border wall will run through both private and Native American lands, as well as mountainous regions, which will dramatically increase the cost of the wall. Also, acquiring private lands can lead to legal battles lasting several years, further hindering the wall.

Another problem with the wall is that it negatively impacts the native wildlife species. As stated by Jeff Corwin in an interview with NBC, “If the border wall happens, it will be an environmental catastrophe,” There are “nearly 90 endangered and threatened species, some of which could very well be pushed to extinction because of this proposed wall.” These animals depend on the ability to traverse the border region for food and reproduction sites, and if their habitat becomes fragmented, it will be detrimental to their populations.

“If the border wall happens, it will be an environmental catastrophe” – Jeff Corwin  

The final obstacle to the border wall is the environment which the wall will be built in. In the California area, the Mexican border lies on the Pacific-North American tectonic plate boundary, leaving the region prone to earthquakes. Austin Elliot, who researches earthquakes at Oxford, claims that “Any wall that is built straddling the fault lines in this region will have to be able to cope with this ongoing deformation, including being abruptly severed in earthquakes.” On top of this, waterways prone to flash floods as well as natural runoff routes will also have to be taken into consideration. If a border wall were to block these areas, there would be severe flooding, damaging both the wall and the surrounding community.

Building Trump’s wall will be very costly, not just in terms of U.S. taxpayers money, but in the environmental and wildlife impacts as well.

Misconceptions

There are many false beliefs and assumptions about illegal immigration and the existing border wall. One of the main assumptions is that building a border wall will completely staunch the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States. However, this is not true. Walls and physical barriers only work well in densely populated areas, where a few minutes can make a difference to the border patrol.

“A fence is useless without a camera to tell you when someone has climbed over it.” –Marc Rosenblum

On the sparsely populated U.S.-Mexico border (in most places), the difference of a few minutes is not a big impact to border patrols. Marc Rosenblum, deputy director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute, describes why a wall is pointless in unpopulated areas: “There is a reason people don’t build fences in the middle of nowhere; it doesn’t change the enforcement profile in the middle of nowhere.”

Another assumption is that all illegal immigrants from Mexico are killers and rapists who steal the jobs of the American people. As stated by Fox News, a “patchwork of local, state and federal statistics” shows a “wildly disproportionate number of murderers, rapists and drug dealers” entering into the United States. However, in 2015, Immigration and Customs Enforcement reported that in 2010-2014, 121 illegal immigrants were charged with a homicide offense. With a total of about 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, only .0011 percent of illegal immigrants were killers, disproving the notion that all illegal immigrants are criminals.

On top of this, immigration-crime research over the past 20 years has found nothing to support the correlation between immigration and crime. Not only do immigrants commit fewer crimes on average than native-born Americans, but large cities with substantial immigrant populations also have lower crime rates on average than those with smaller populations. A study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found “little to no negative effects” of employment and wages of native-born workers in the long term. The study also found that even though first generation immigrants generally cost the government more than they give in taxes, the second and third generations of the same family become a benefit to the government because of the improved education rate and taxpaying ability.

Finally, one of the largest misconceptions is currently, the border is unprotected, and illegal immigrants are flowing across. As stated in USA Today, the United States border patrol estimates it catches or turns back around 90% of people trying to cross the border. This further proves why at this point in time, the border wall is not necessary.

Summary

Overall, Trump’s proposed border wall between the United States and Mexico at this point in time is not worth all it will cost. The wall is not cost-effective because of its high price tag for the little it will do for border security. In no means do I think a border wall is wrong. In some cases they are completely needed, but for the United States, a border wall is not the right solution to our “problem.”

 

Featured image by Pixabay

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