By Monica Vega
“Build a wall!” has recently become a popular answer to the question, “What should we do about our immigration problem?”
Popularized by the now infamous presidential hopeful Donald Trump, this idea has gained momentum among many Americans. To Trump supporters, it seems like the most logical and efficient way to keep immigrants out of the United States. Trump claims that a nation without borders is not a nation and thus a wall on the U.S. southern border with Mexico is a necessity. Furthermore, he intends to make Mexico pick up the tab for the building of this wall. His argument for this relies on his belief that Mexico is taking advantage of the U.S. by using illegal immigration as a method for the exportation of crime and poverty out of the country.
Clearly, the border between Mexico and the U.S. is brimming with conflict and no American has been spared this bombardment of news. For this reason, it may come as a surprise to hear that around the world there are many borders with no issues. If we forget about our conflict-ridden southern border, we remember that we also share a border with our neighbor to the north.
However, just like there are borders that contrast with our southern border, others experience similar issues.
Similar to the aforementioned borders, our border with Mexico is highly militarized. The U.S. Border Patrol boasted 21,000 agents in 2012, a number which has surely risen since.
The coffins propped up on the Mexican side of the border represent the thousands who have died on their journey to the United States. The U.S. Border Patrol Reports an approximated 6,000 deaths between 1998 and 2013. However, many deaths have gone unreported, so the actual number is thought to be higher.
Why are these two groups of borders so starkly different? One group has almost non-existent borders while the other has borders reminiscent of war images. Of course, these differences have to do with issues between the countries. Many times, as is the case for the United States and Mexico, these issues are economic or security related. Americans worry about illegal immigrants who seek jobs in the United States as well as about the illegal transportation of drugs into the country.
But would building a wall really be the answer?
First, it must be noted that about 40% of illegal immigrants in the United States enter the country legally with visas and then simply overstay the visas. A 1,900-mile wall would be useless in helping to end this problem. Inclusively, it may even lead to an increase in the number of over-stays in the US. A wall may make entering the United States more difficult but it certainly would not make it an impossible feat.
Second, it would be physically impossible to build a wall that spans the 1,900 miles that is the Mexico-US border during the short span of time that Trump would be president. Only once has an architectural endeavor like this succeeded, and that was the building of the Great Wall of China – a feat that took a huge labor force and centuries to complete.
And third, Trump plans to make Mexico foot the bill for the construction of his wall. His plan is to stop the flow of money from immigrants in the U.S. to their families in Mexico. These payments, called remittances, account for a large portion of the Mexican economy. Trump would block these payments until they agree to pay for the wall. But of course, Mexico can always say no.
In our current world, where globalization has generated both financial and social interconnectedness between nations, it seems an archaic idea to begin the building of a wall. On top of that, though it may sound appealing to some, it is unrealistic and nearly impossible to carry out.
Our world should be changing for the better. Instead of spending time thinking about ways to prop up walls, we should focus on ways to solve the issues that lead to conflict between countries. Building a wall is too simplistic an answer. If there is an issue with the border, the U.S. needs to face it head on, not build a wall around it.