The Real Deal Behind Trump’s Wall
Last week, Trump’s team began meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers to work out a plan for the vast wall he’s promised to build along the Mexican Border. What a joke. A lot of people have criticized his plan for its xenophobia, but let’s put that aside for a moment and consider the plan’s endless practical shortcomings. Let’s also talk about Trump’s real intentions. Illegal immigration has already dropped for plenty of reasons, including more effective border security. A wall won’t just harm our relationship with Mexico, or hurt people’s feelings. All the facts point to it as one of the biggest wastes of tax payer money in American history. Conservatives usually hate this sort of thing, right?
So why is Trump insisting on this wall? Let’s get real. Even Trump must know, on some level, that a wall has no practical value. Only symbolic. A wall conveys the image of strength, certainty, dependability. It plays well on the media. By now, I’ve learned that almost half of Americans don’t want real solutions. They want quick, simple ones. They want to feel good.
It’s ironic. Alt-right trolls often ask if I “need a safe space,” when I point out Trump’s idiocies. No, I’m facing reality. They’re the ones who seem to need all the safe space. They want walls, gates, guns, and the protective bubble of suburbia wrapped around them all the time. They’re the ones sharing Breitbart articles and talking about white nationalism. What’s all that, if not the biggest safe space ever imagined? They want a safe space so huge it pushes out everyone who looks or thinks differently from them.
A smart argument against Trump’s wall uses the same logic the NRA does against gun control. You can’t stop all mass shootings with laws. The same goes for this wall. It will technically stop some illegal immigrants, but not the most determined ones, not the ones with resources and criminal connections, not the coyotes and smugglers and cartel kings. Those are the ones Trump tells us to worry about—the drug dealers and rapists.
“It will technically stop some illegal immigrants, but not the most determined ones, not the ones with resources and criminal connections, not the coyotes and smugglers and cartel kings.”
But even that argument falls apart. Trump has claimed that “Thousands of Americans have been killed by illegal immigrants.” Of course, you know Trump’s grasping at straws when, at his rallies, his examples come from the 1990s. That, combined with lots of real data, convinced Politifact.com to label Trump’s immigration rhetoric a bunch of hogwash. Your odds of being killed by an illegal immigrant are lower than ever right now. According to Politifact, you’re more likely to be killed by a legal citizen.
Meanwhile, mass shootings happen several times a year now. My own campus had two potential active shooter situations over the past 16 months. We go through training to respond to these incidents. The way I see it, why on earth are we going to spend billions on a wall to keep out an imaginary threat when we’re in the middle of a real one?
Above all, Illegal immigration and border security is a moot point. Trump lives as if the last 10 years never happened. I guess he was too busy whining about Obama’s birth certificate to read the news. As Robert Reich of The Huffington Post points out, the government already spends $3.7 billion a year on border patrol, employing more than 20,000 agents. We’ve also walled or fenced off a third of our border. The rest has natural barriers that make crossing difficult or even deadly.
Trump is also lying about the price of the wall, while ignoring the hidden costs. Trump himself claimed it would take $10 billion dollars, if you can believe him. Let’s remember this man habitually lies about his finances, and refuses to pay contractors for work they’ve done. We also know that construction projects and military research always go vastly over budget. That’s why I believe NPR that the cost will fall in the $15-20 billion range. Why do I believe NPR? Because they interviewed actual construction experts. We’re talking about tons of concrete with reinforced steel.
Plus, Trump pretends like this wall won’t require constant upkeep. Roads and highways require maintenance, don’t they? We should expect the elements—erosion, rock slides, storms, etc.—to cause damage over time. When that happens, you can bet coyotes will find and exploit them. All told, Trump is relying on the fantasy that a thousand-mile stretch of concrete is going to remain perfectly intact at all times. In reality, just a few gaps or weak points would be enough to make the entire thing completely irrelevant.
“Trump is relying on the fantasy that a thousand-mile stretch of concrete is going to remain perfectly intact at all times. In reality, just a few gaps or weak points would be enough to make the entire thing completely irrelevant.”
But this is all speculation. The biggest gap in Trump’s wall? Illegal immigration has fallen to its lowest level since the 1970s. That’s right, Mexicans aren’t exactly chomping at the bit to get over here anymore. Reich attributes this trend to a number of factors, but mainly Mexico’s declining birthrate. According to the Pew Research Center, enforcement has also become stricter and more effective over the last several years:
In addition, stricter enforcement of U.S. immigration laws, particularly at the U.S.-Mexico border (Rosenblum and Meissner, 2014), may have contributed to the reduction of Mexican immigrants coming to the U.S. in recent years. According to one indicator, U.S. border apprehensions of Mexicans have fallen sharply, to just 230,000 in fiscal year 2014 – a level not seen since 1971 (Krogstad and Passel, 2014). At the same time, increased enforcement in the U.S. has led to an increase in the number of Mexican immigrants who have been deported from the U.S. since 2005 (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2014).
“ Illegal immigration has fallen to its lowest level since the 1970s.”
An added security: Mexican immigrants don’t take jobs away from citizens. They seek work that Trump supporters consider themselves too good for. Every year, I wish I could ask my conservative in-laws: Where exactly do you see illegal immigrants working? Do you personally know anyone who lost their job to an illegal immigrant?
What about the drug trade, you ask? Some advocates of the wall say it will stop the flow of illegal drugs into our country, and somehow that will make the wall worth the astronomical cost. Not so much. Have you ever seen an episode of Weeds? They didn’t make up those drug tunnels. They’re real. Federal agents found a large and sophisticated one just last December. What, you honestly thought drug cartels wouldn’t have tunnels? They’re not stupid. Whether by tunnels or increasingly sophisticated smuggling tactics, those drugs will continue to pour in no matter how big a wall we build. If I were a conservative, I would invest that money in law enforcement and technology.
What truly baffles me? Experts can’t even agree on the actual cost of illegal immigration to our economy. But it stands to reason: If illegal immigration has fallen to its lowest levels in decades, and immigrants aren’t taking jobs from citizens in the first place, and criminals remain smart, then I seriously question whether we end up with a net gain.
The problem with Trump’s wall is the same problem with every other policy he’s putting forward. It’s not just bad, it’s unbelievably outdated. Our sad president talks about immigration, crime, terrorism, and outsourcing as if it were 2002. He thinks we’re going to win with walls, tanks, tariffs, and nukes. It’s like Dr. Evil just woke up from a cryogenic freeze. Yes, Trump is evil, but he’s not even that good at being evil. The man has no clue what problems we actually face in the 21st century. He only knows one thing: how to manipulate. He’s tapped into a reservoir of old scars, necromancing Americans’ timeless fears of invisible invaders and Big Brothers. This wall isn’t going to improve anyone’s lives. It’s only going to glorify a bitter old aristocrat with no vision.
Featured image by Omar Bárcena via Flickr.