We all know that walls are made to divide, and further division is the last thing that the country, and the world, needs. President Donald Trump’s biggest campaign promise was one that seemed so far-fetched that even his most fervent supporters believed it to be a pipe dream. Yes, “the wall” and the great promise that it would be built along the entire U.S. and Mexico border was one of Trump’s early campaign staples, but now that Trump has actually passed some executive orders moving us closer to some of his other campaign promises, how far away are we from this wall?
It’s hard to know where to begin with the criticisms of the wall. First of all, it begs the question of who is going to pay for it. Estimates on the price of the wall have ranged greatly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell estimated the cost between $12 and $15 billion, while other estimates have been as much as $20 billion. The last thing that Trump’s base wants is for him to raise taxes to pay for this wall, so President Trump decided to add on that Mexico is going to conveniently pay for the wall and has been searching for a way to get them to do so since.
The Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto, of course, insists that Mexico will pay for no such wall, and why would they? According to the Pew Research Center, more Mexicans have left the U.S. than have come in since 2010. Most of the immigrants, legal and illegal, coming across the Mexican border are now from other Central American countries
Then, there’s the question being what would the wall accomplish? Most areas of significant population along the border already have a large fence of some sort, not to mention border patrol. In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security’s Secretary, which was Michael Chertoff at the time, said that 580 miles of the Mexican border had fencing along it. The total area of the border covers about 2000 miles, mostly desert. One glaring question is how would the wall be maintained?
As decay is inevitable in the desert, would there be border security officers constantly driving up and down the wall looking for wear and tear to be fixed? Add the price of maintenance to the wall’s construction price and the whole thing begins to sound like a big dent in the nation’s annual budget.
What was it that brought people to love the wall in the first place? One of Trump’s more well-known campaign speeches came in 2015 when he said, “When do we beat Mexico at the border? They’re laughing at us, at our stupidity, and now they’re beating us economically, they’re not our friend, believe me, but they’re killing us economically. The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems and these aren’t the best and the finest. When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best, they’re not sending you. They’re sending people who have lots of problems, and their bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists, and I assume some are good people.” The Trump crowd loved it. The idea of antagonizing Mexico and blaming them for the United States’ problems was fascinating to them, and Trump rode the wave of xenophobia straight to the White House.
Trump went on later in his campaign to point out how many manufacturing jobs moved to Mexico, and how he would bring these lost jobs back and to make sure they stayed. The working class of rural America, which had lost their jobs to outsourcing, heard this and believed, or hoped, that making Trump president would give them work again.
The wall became more than just a physical barrier. It became a symbol to keep all our jobs here, and all the “bad hombres” out. Trump gave himself the image of an economics guru who could bring employment to all, bring our jobs back from Mexico and build a wall between us for good measure. Trump has never addressed the fact that technology may be taking more jobs than outsourcing. A study by Ball State University showed that U.S manufacturing grew by 17.6 percent from 2006 to 2013, and that 88 percent of lost U.S. factory jobs were taken by robots and other technology.
But I’ll humor the President and look at another example of an infamous wall. The most well-known and modern example would be the Berlin Wall. In light of Trump’s recent executive order, the mayor of Berlin, Michael Muller, asked Trump to reconsider. “We cannot simply accept that all our historic experiences are being thrown into disarray by the ones we have to thank most for our freedom: the Americans. I call on the U.S. President to not go down this wrong track of isolation and exclusion.” Said Muller, according to a translation by the Washington Post.
We live in a time in which Democrats and Republicans can hardly engage in a political discussion without it digressing into petty insults. Trump’s “Time” magazine cover referred to him as the “President of the Divided States of America.” We were founded by a group of immigrants fleeing religious persecution and have always prided ourselves as the saviors of those who seek the same. How can we keep that reputation if we build such a wall? It would act as a massive symbol of exclusion.
Elliot Weld can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org