Americans have been building walls around each other for the past several years now. Walls around politicians, walls around journalists, but mostly walls around each other.
One wall in particular sticks out more than the rest, however, and it’s the one that Mexico was apparently supposed to pay for.
When Donald Trump announced his campaign for presidency in 2015 to a crowd of citizens eager for a tectonic shift in political leadership, he launched his campaign with one key promise: that he would build a border wall south of Texas between the United States and Mexico, and Mexico would foot the bill. Trump has since dragged that wall with him everywhere he went, through the campaign trail, to the debate stage, to the White House, through the mud and back. Or is it more accurate to say swamp?
Recently, the Trump administration took their most drastic step toward building the wall yet. In September of last year, Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era immigration policy that protected undocumented immigrants from deportation that came here when they were children. Originally claiming to rescind the program to spur congress to act on immigration reform, Trump has since taken a stronger stance in using the program recipients as leverage for his border wall, which Democrats have been strongly resisting since Trump took office in 2017.
Since it is abundantly clear that Trump is taking the border wall as seriously as he takes his approval ratings, it is important that we take it equally as seriously ourselves, since this border wall will impact our security, our finances, and our relationship with Mexico. The wall has been widely criticized by politicians left and right of the political spectrum, with Republicans calling Trump’s lofty ideas absurd and unrealistic, while Democrats went as far as calling the wall racist and hateful.
Fortunately, the argument is made much simpler once you look at the wall through a practical perspective in terms of function. And when you take a hard, close look at all of the semantics involved, the conclusion drawn is very clear. A border wall will not and cannot fix the immigration issues this country is facing right now.
Before I delve into my findings, let’s make one thing clear: Mexico is not paying for the wall. It’s just not happening. Mexico’s treasury secretary, Luis Videgaray, said they’re not paying for the wall, Associated Press reported. President Enrique Nieto said they’re not paying for the wall, according to USA Today. Former president Vincente Fox told Univision that they’re “not going to pay for that f***ing wall.” Mexico does have a $60 billion trade deficit with the U.S., but even if they are somehow coerced to use that debt to pay for wall construction, that’s still using the U.S.’s earnings to pay for the wall. Don’t kid yourselves here. Mexico is not paying for the wall. Period.
With that being established, the cost for the wall is lofty. While claiming on the campaign trail that the wall would be $8 to $12 billion (there were many inconsistent estimates), Trump is now requesting $25 billion to start production on the wall. To put that into perspective, that’s more than the proposed Department of Interior budget at $11 billion. That’s more than our Children’s Health Insurance Program at $15 billion. That’s more than NASA’s federal budget at $19 billion. We literally would be spending more on the border wall than we would be on our space programs, our historical sites, and our children, not to mention that these estimates are only based on the construction costs alone. How many programs and tax dollars would have to be sacrificed to staff and maintain the wall once it’s completed?
That being said, a border wall might be worth the high cost if it halts illegal immigration as much as Trump claims. It wouldn’t. About 45 percent of undocumented immigrants come into the United States by airfare and simply stay in the states after their visas expire, according to the Pew Research Center. The rest come in by boat or land. Don’t even get me started on how the underground tunnels complicate the matter even further.
At most, the border wall might potentially halt half of the undocumented immigrants that come into this country. So, let’s do the math. Approximately 700,000 immigrants enter the country illegally every year, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. Slash that number in half thanks to the border wall. Compare that to the $25 billion construction cost. You would find that we would be spending about $71,000 per immigrant to stop them from entering the country.
Okay, but let’s play devil’s advocate even further here. Let’s say that Americans want to spend an average of $68 million a day to keep immigrants from entering the country. It would not change a single thing. Why? Because most violent crimes are not committed by immigrants. In fact, the largest demographic that commits the most crimes are native-born American citizens. A 2015 report by the American Immigration Council shows that middle-aged native-born Americans had an incarceration rate of 10.7 percent. That’s triple the 2.8 percent of male Mexican immigrants and 1.7 percent of Salvadoran and Guatemalan male immigrants. Similarly, the Human Rights Watch has documented that white Americans have been leading the statistics in drug arrests since 1980. They lead in similar statistics in forcible rape as well, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
To put it simply, immigrants are not bringing in crime, drugs, or rapists. We’re bringing that in all by ourselves.
We need to face reality here and not cherry-pick our facts. The border wall is expensive, wasteful, ineffective, and unnecessary, not to mention that it feeds into a xenophobic narrative 40 percent of the country is falling into. Obviously, we need some form of border protection to help mitigate immigration and security concerns. But a wall is not the right answer for most of the country, especially with 62 percent of Americans saying they do not want a border wall, according to the Pew Research Center.
It’s time President Trump started listening to his constituents.