Dismantling the wall

By Derek Danneker
February 9, 2017

“Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English). Indeed, much like Alice we seem to find ourselves in a kind of Wonderland in American politics. The traditional defenses against authoritarianism have, for a time, failed. We are instead left with an irascible orange-sheened ignoramus. Logically, there are many bad ideas to come down the pipeline – perhaps even the pipeline itself – however, the most noxious notion, or perhaps creed, the Trump Administration has hounded with at times wolfish intensity is that of a transoceanic wall some 1,900 miles along the Mexico-United States border.

A wall of this kind would be massively expensive, contrary to Pres. Trump’s estimates of $10-12 Billion that he says he found through “a very easy calculation.” The actual figures vary: The Government Accountability Office estimated in 2009 that the wall would cost about $3.9 million a mile while the Department of Homeland Security estimate from late 2008 determines the figure more at around $6.5 million. In total according to MIT Technical Review in Oct. of 2016, a 1,000 mile long wall may cost from $27-40 billion depending on the materials used. This all of course is in addition to the Secure Fence Act of 2006 which gave $2.6 Billion towards the fencing and installed it along 654 miles according to the Department of Homeland Security. The proposed wall stretches throughout some of the most arid and rough terrain of the United States where engineering a wall is impractical. Then there is the prospect of staffing and maintaining such a wall. If President Trump were looking for a way to hemorrhage money, he found it.

This all would be American taxpayer money, for clarification. President Enrique Peña Nieto has said that “of course” Mexico won’t pay for the wall and to do so would be “against our dignity.” Pres. Nieto has recently canceled a meeting with Pres. Trump that was expected to occur in late Jan. over the issue. In response, Pres. Trump toyed with the idea of a 20 percent increase on imports from Mexico. This would stifle trade with what has become one of our greatest contiguous partners while digging American citizens a hole in their pocket.

Despite Pres. Trump’s recalcitrant lies, there are not illegal immigrants “pouring” through the border. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, the population of illegal immigrants has fallen and then stabilized at around 11.1 million in 2014 due to deportation nearly equaling immigration and in some cases death. Of the 11.1 million, the Pew Hispanic Center reported in 2005 that 57 percent are Mexican.

Of the illegal immigrant population at large, perhaps as many as 45 percent enter the United States legally but simply overstay their visas according to The Pew Research Center in a 2006 report. Not only would a wall be an economic headache but would not even stop or reduce Pres. Trump’s “pouring” border to anything like a trickle.

This is all is not to say that an open border policy would be prefered. Any sovereign nation needs to have solid geographical boundaries. There is, indeed, a sordid idea in the notion of immigrants circumventing their spot in line. An actual physical barrier in addition to those already present would not only send a very un-american message to the rest of the world, but would be an effort to solve a nonexistent problem by throwing money at it.

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