The Border Wall

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Saish Satyal, Editor

In a series of shocking events, President Trump declared a state of national emergency to obtain funding for his wall along the border of the United States and Mexico. The Democratic-controlled House has recently announced that they are going to dispute his claim. Throughout Donald Trump’s campaign, he repeatedly stated that he would make Mexico pay for this wall. However, as is shown by the recent government shutdown and declaration of emergency, he has obviously not been able to get our neighbor to pay for this wall.

Calculating the exact cost of the wall is difficult due to the fact that the Trump administration does not even have an official design for their wall. Trump’s initial claim during his 2016 campaign was that the border wall would cost approximately 5-7 billion dollars. Yet at a Kansas rally in December 2018, he gave a cost of 15-20 billion dollars. During his campaign and first year in office, Mr. Trump has said that the wall would be concrete and be 30-40 feet tall. However, he has since revised his claims and stated that it would be made of reinforced steel slats. However, on December 31st, he once again tweeted that the wall would be partially concrete but partially made of reinforced steel slats. But will any of these methods actually do anything? Customs and Border Protection attacked a prototype with methods that are easy to obtain, such as power tools. The heavily redacted report that it released did not state the exact details of the wall prototypes, but stated that every model of the wall that they have worked on has failed. However, we do know that Donald Trump’s proposed budget for the wall does not include costs for maintaining, repairing and actually staffing our border.

Out of the 1,954 miles of land that the United States shares with Mexico, about 668 miles of that land are already fenced due to the actions of previous presidents such as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Another 130 miles of the land are uncrossable due to natural barriers. This leaves around 1,136 miles of border that is open and unfenced. However, this shouldn’t be worrying many people. The total rate of border apprehensions has been falling since 2000, where it peaked to over 1.5 million. Since 2010, the apprehensions have stayed under 400,000 people, with an exception in 2013 and 2014. These are the lowest numbers that we’ve seen since 1973, as stated by US Customs and Border Protection. Not only that, but about 27-40% of illegal immigrants are people who have come in legally and overstayed their VISA.

Texas is the only state that keeps records of crimes committed by illegal immigrants. Using this data, we are able to see that 0.89% of illegal immigrants committed any crimes in 2015 which is much lower than the 1.79% of native born Americans that committed any crimes that year. It should also be mentioned that these statistics are not limited to violent crimes. The drugs being smuggled into this country are mostly not occurring at the wide swaths of unprotected land along the border. Approximately 85% of drugs seized at the border were actually seized at legal border crossings. While this percentage only talks about drugs that were caught, experts say that these statistics reflect the overall flow of drugs into our country.

The point is that a large wall, costing billions of dollars, covering 1,136 miles of land is completely unnecessary. In fact, George W. Bush’s original plan in 2006 wasn’t to build a fence, it was to reduce the need for illegal immigration and to create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the US. The Secure Fence Act of 2006 was actually a bipartisan effort in which 26 Democrat Senators, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, worked towards creating tighter border security. In partisan America, the compromise seems to be building strategic barriers with increased enforcement along points where illegal crossings happen most frequently, as well as providing more and better paths to citizenship for illegal immigrants trying to live in America.