Building a wall between the United States and Mexico over-simplifies complex issues. It cuts deep into our national identity. It invites unintended negative consequences.
As a political slogan, it was powerful for Donald Trump. As a practical strategy, it falls far short of the kind of thorough approach necessary to deal with decades of inaction on immigration reform.
Americans need to take a hard look at the facts and consider the bigger picture.
The USA NETWORK’s special report on the impact of the proposed border wall provides the tools to do that.
Ostensibly, the wall is all about border security, which is critically important. The United States needs to be able to maintain the integrity of its borders. No question. No argument. But the actual benefits of a physical wall are unknown and so are the costs.
A wall will not exist in isolation – and it cannot not effectively isolate the United States from danger. Consider the interrelated issues it touches.
There is our national commitment to human rights. Our image in the world. Our relations with a friendly trading partner. Our role in a global community. Our economy. Our duty as stewards of fragile border ecosystems. Our national budget.
Mexico is a leading supplier of U.S. produce and much of that passes through Arizona’s ports.
A tariff would lead to higher produce prices for American consumers – negating the argument that Mexico is paying. Higher costs for selling in the United States would also lead Mexican growers to seek other markets for their goods, the USA TODAY NETWORK special report found.
We know the value of that trade. We don’t even know the price tag of the wall – let alone what it would cost our state and nation in lost commerce.
The Trump Administration has awarded contracts for prototypes of the wall, yet a team of USA TODAY NETWORK journalists could find no analysis of what the actual wall would cost or exactly what it is expected to accomplish.
Despite years of building border infrastructure, border officials do not have a systematic way to measure the effectiveness of the barriers that have been erected along the border. Nor is there a clear understanding of what the wall will be What’s more, the wall is being proposed at a time when undocumented immigration is at its lowest point in four decades. The decline in apprehensions has been steady since 2000.
The USA TODAY NETWORK project took journalists over nearly every foot of the border, including flights above some extremely remote areas where constructing a wall would be perilous, if not impossible.
One smuggler told our reporters that a wall won’t stop those who want to cross, it will simply allow smugglers to charge people more. And it will increase the risk of death as people resort to more dangerous routes.
What’s needed is a legal process to bring in workers for jobs Americans don’t want, a way to legalize the current undocumented workers and their families, enforceable penalties for employers who continue to hire undocumented workers and a humane solution for refugees fleeing violence in Central America.
A wall does none of these things. It is not a solution. It is an illusion. A slogan.
The border is an emotional issue and politicians have contributed to the confusion by offering simplistic solutions. The border project provides context and explores the complexities of the expensive and impractical idea of walling off our southern border.
Arizona Republic, Sept. 20