By now, it is evident that Donald Trump thinks of the border primarily as a threat. Over it flow criminals, drugs, and fictitious “unknown Middle Easterners.” Trump seeks to seal the border as tightly as possible with a “big, beautiful wall” while also cracking down on legal routes of entry into the United States. The wall, according to Trump, can defend the nation’s vulnerable underbelly and restore American sovereignty and, of course, greatness.
Even if the impenetrable barrier were to funnel all cross-border traffic to legitimate ports of entry, real challenges at the border can hardly be addressed. In recent years, hundreds of thousands of Central American refugees have arrived, traveling as family units who voluntarily surrendered themselves to US authorities to apply for asylum. A wall could probably stop them crossing the border, but they are still legally entitled to claim asylum at a port of entry.
At the present moment, the immigration court system has a backlog of over 800,000 refugee cases and desperately needs more staff and resources to give asylum seekers fair and effective hearings. The wall won’t help. Meanwhile, due to the president’s manufactured crisis and government shutdown over the funding of the wall funding, these immigration court systems have been closed, exacerbating that backlog.
Compared to that of the early 2000s, the number of undocumented residents in the US has been dropping significantly. On top of that, those who remain are most likely to overstay their visas. Trump’s wall is unlikely to have much impact on the population of undocumented immigrants. The president also insists that the wall will hinder illegal entries and especially block any terrorists trying to sneak in from Mexico. However, he fails to produce any evidence of terrorists passing over the United States’ southern border. It would be safer to say that the main threat facing the US today comes from homegrown extremists.
Moreover, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency, the border wall cannot stop the flow of illegal drugs since most of these drugs enter the United States through legal ports of entry, hidden among legitimate goods. The only way to reduce this influx of drugs is to shut or slow down trade with Mexico instead of building a border wall.
The partial shutdown of the U.S. government, the longest ever now in its 26th day (as of this article’s drafting), hit another milestone on Wednesday. Ironically, the government shutdown has now surpassed the cost of the desired thousand-mile border wall: an analysis of average federal wages by The New York Times suggests that the present shutdown is costing $200 million a day in delayed wages, or over $6 billion as of January 19th compared to the $5.7 billion that Trump wanted.
On a more humorous note, many people have already shown that a border wall is unparalleled in uselessness; a Mexican politician, in a protest against Trump’s claims that Mexico would pay for his wall, climbed to the top of a seaside segment of the current border “wall”, highlighting the impotence of the wall.
Furthermore, photographers have documented the smuggling of a whole car over the sacred border wall designed to protect the United States by use of ramps, some patience, and impressive driving skills.
In summary, this border wall has been proven to be a fruitless enterprise. While the idea of an impenetrable barrier that defends the country from any possible threats might appeal to some people, its economic, political, and practical attributes are more than doubtful.
– William Cho (’21)
Images: CBS Miami, NY Daily News, US Customs and Border Protection (respectively)