Should a Physical Wall be Erected Along our Southern Border?

Undocumented immigration into the United States has become an increasingly important concern in recent years. The Trump administration has made building an impermeable wall on the southern border of the US a priority. Their decision to construct this wall has been criticized for numerous reasons, and is seen as unnecessary by a majority of Americans. A physical border wall should not be built along the US-Mexico border because of its negative impacts on property owners, negative impacts on the environment, inability to prevent visa overstays who enter legally, and lack of cost-effectivity overall.

A wall would negatively impact indigenous people and others who own property on the border. If the wall is built, landowners may have parts of their property seized, as well as be cut off from accessing other parts of their property on opposite sides of the wall. Those who will not give up access to their properties freely will have lawsuits filed against them by the DHS (Department of Homeland Security.) (Gilman, 5) They will be denied the right to reach significant portions of their own land, which will take away the livelihood of many. Indigenous people living in bi-national communities depend on current conditions for survival and ritual purposes, which will soon be disrupted. In addition, “The wall is scheduled to be built through sensitive environmental areas, indigenous lands, and small private properties but will not run through larger and more lucrative properties owned by businesses.”(Gilman, 8)

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The Department of Homeland Security’s plans to avoid less-populated properties illustrates a lack of care for the individuals that will be harmed by a physical border wall. A border wall would also negatively impact the environment. Several endangered species will have their habitats and migration routes disrupted. Hundreds of acres of land will be affected, rendering years of conservation efforts fruitless.

The DHS has determined that a physical wall will not have significant or long-term effects on the environment. However, their conclusions were based on extremely short studies that occurred outside of regular migratory and breeding seasons. (Eriksson and Taylor, 3) Choosing these studies to base their conclusions on shows that the DHS is committed to building the border wall at any cost, despite any negative consequences. Even during a time of significant opposition to their border wall initiative, the DHS waived over 30 environmental laws (such as the Endangered Species Act) in order to authorize border wall construction. (Gilman, 6)

This reinforces that the DHS shows no concern for what the border wall will do to the environment or what the American people care about. The effects of physical walls have in fact been shown in other countries besides the US. “A security fence build along the India-Pakistan border has altered wildlife movements and resulted in increased human-wildlife conflict.” (Eriksson and Taylor, 7) An impermeable wall along the US-Mexico border will have effects that are no different. Building a border wall would not prevent most illegal immigrants from entering the United States, since most are visa overstays who entered legally. “Overstays have exceeded EWIs (entries without inspection) every year since 2007, and 600,000 more overstays than EWIs have arrived since 2007.” (Warren and Kerwin, 125) A physical border wall obviously has no way to prevent people from arriving legally. In 2014, two thirds of immigrants added to the undocumented population were visa overstays. (Warren and Kerwin, 126) If a border wall cannot prevent the majority of illegal immigrants from entering the country, it has no reason to be built. Even the 9/11 terrorists entered through legal immigration channels. (Gilman, 9)

If the wall has no ability to prevent the majority of illegals from arriving, it should at least be able to prevent the most dangerous from arriving. Yet it would even fail in this regard. A multi-billion dollar price for a wall is not justifiable based on its effectiveness, even when considering only EWIs. Experts have argued that a wall would not help to secure the US-Mexico border except in heavy crossing areas near towns and highways. (Warren and Kerwin, 124) There is no reason to construct a wall if it will not be effective in most areas. In the 1990s, when the US first started to aggressively enforce the border, these points were policed more heavily. Although their efforts reduced illegal crossings in those areas, they did not reduce illegal crossings overall. (Hanson et al., 52)

This illustrates that no amount of enforcement on the US-Mexico border is positively impactful, and does not accomplish its goal of deterring illegal immigrants. If the DHS wishes to reduce the undocumented population, they should take increased measures within US borders, not along them. “It does appear […] that those individuals who are on the margin between migrating and not migrating are relatively insensitive to changes in border enforcement.” (Hanson et al., 53) Nothing short of 24/7 monitoring of every inch of the US will reduce illegal immigration on the level that the Trump administration is aiming for with the wall. Billions of dollars to fund a border wall that would only have negative effects is laughable.

In fact, no amount of border enforcement is sufficiently cost-effective to justify implementation. In light of the negative effects a physical border wall would have, Americans should be doing everything they can to prevent construction. They should join protests against the wall, contact their representatives, and spread awareness on why others should also oppose the wall. If we do not prevent it, the eventual construction of a physical border wall will negatively affect property owners, harm the environment, fail in its goal of preventing most illegal immigration, and will not be worth its multi-billion dollar cost. The Trump administration obviously believes in taking a tough stance on illegal immigration, but they are misguided in their attempts to do so. While illegal immigration is an issue, border enforcement is not a solution. A physical wall being constructed in pursuit of border security is especially and completely preposterous.

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