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Illegal immigration has been the biggest issue Trump promises to tackle during his presidency, and it was his vehement commitment to building a wall along the border that gained him so many supporters during his campaign. It seems like a simple solution to a problem that has been central to so many on the right, and the President has not backed down from his promise to build The Wall. Trump has already signed two executive orders directing the construction to begin along the U.S-Mexico border. There is a plethora of information floating around the Internet about the still contentious Wall, and I’m here to help answer your questions about the future of our southern border.
The reasons vary about why we need a wall, from protecting internal wealth, to keeping out criminals and terrorists, to reducing drug imports. There is a general feeling, mostly from the Right, that the current immigration laws simply aren’t strict enough. Many believe the border isn’t nearly as secure as it should be. But a lot of these reasons stem from a place of fear. The fear that our jobs are being taken, the fear that we’re letting in too many criminals, the fear that those coming over are unmotivated and will be a burden to U.S citizens. It’s a fear that has been repeated throughout history, dating back to 1882 when Chester A. Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act. This was the first real immigration law enacted nationally in America, in hopes to protect the jobs that Chinese laborers were willing to do for less. Trump honed in on this fear and made it the main piece of his platform, convincing his audience that a wall separating the two countries could solve many of our problems. But the fact is, unauthorized U.S immigrants account for only 3.5% of the nation’s population, and only 23% of the population view a Wall as vitally important to U.S immigration policy. Despite this, it seems that Trump is planning on keeping his promise to build, so the next question is…
In order to complete this wall, it will have to cover nearly 2,000 miles of land from California, Arizona, New Mexico, to Texas. That’s a lot of land to be covered, much of which is private property. Eminent domain would have to be used to buy this land and force the land owners off of their property, which is typically something Republicans have been against. There is currently fencing covering roughly 40% of the border due to President W. Bush signing the Secure Fence Act back in ’06. Trump has cited the Secure Fence Act as the legal grounds to build a wall. The estimates of how much this wall will cost vary greatly, from $8 billion according Trump, to a whopping $40 billion according to a study published by MIT technology review. $15 billion alone would need to go to labor costs. And speaking of labor, you may be wondering who is going to build this wall, considering finding enough legal, properly documented workers is going to prove difficult to do. About half of Texas’ construction workers are undocumented, and 14% nationwide lack proper authorization. Roughly two thirds of construction firms are having difficulty finding legal workers because of this. It’s become a profession that many younger people in America find unappealing and tend to avoid, leaving a huge deficit in construction laborers.
Who will foot the bill?
President Trump has repeatedly said that Mexico will be paying for this wall, and he is confident despite President Peña Nieto consistently denying this. Republicans are not clear as to how this will happen, but Paul Ryan is sure that if the U.S fronts the money for the Wall, “there are a lot of different ways of getting Mexico to pay for it.” One example of this would be to put a 20% tax on Mexican imports, which gives the U.S the upper-hand since 80% of Mexican exports come into America. This would potentially bring in 10 billion dollars a year and could be a bipartisan agreement to assure that the U.S taxpayer won’t be affected by the cost of the Great Wall. However, this tax would inevitably lead to a surge of prices, ultimately making the American consumer pay in a roundabout way.
How will this affect U.S-Mexico relations?
If the Wall ends up being completed, it’s important to have it guarded from both sides in order to be the most effective it can be. It has taken years to build a cooperative relationship between the two countries, but particularly since 9/11, Mexico has had a cooperative border relationship with America in efforts to stop drug cartels, although migration is still a sensitive topic. Regardless of how the current Mexican President responds to Trump, the upcoming nominees for the general election in Mexico are much less likely to cooperate with Trump in order to gain favor with their voters. A strain on this relationship may only take the U.S back further in it’s effort for a more secure border.
How will this affect the environment?
Another factor to remember about potentially building a wall is it’s affect on the delicate ecosystem of the U.S-Mexico border. Man-made infrastructure of all kind effects these ecosystems, including the many roads that will be needed to be built for workers to access the areas. The caliber of the Wall, however, could destroy habitats, affect the way these animals migrate, and potentially cause extinction. Many species, including the North American Jaguar, bighorn sheep and black bears, depend on movement between the u.s and mexico to maintain genetic diversity. Human barriers can also disrupt pollination and disturb watersheds and waterways, which can lead to flooding.
The consequences of human barriers is unpredictable, and building a wall still won’t guarantee security or safety for the American people. We need to ask if this is truly necessary for our country (which, as stated earlier, 23% agree it is not.) There are many other ways to improve immigration policy, many Americans care much more about people overstaying their visas or whether or not illegal immigrants are receiving government benefits than they do about building a wall. The potential $40 billion could be spent on our education system, on housing veterans, or perhaps on cleaning up the water in Flint, Michigan. We have to ask what our priorities are. Do we want to be represented by The Wall or The Statue of Liberty?
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