Wall plans ignore reality of U.S.-Mexico border life

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Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

“Once built, it was doomed, sooner or later, to come down,” wrote the historian Donald P. Steury for the CIA’s 2011 publication “A City Torn Apart, Building of the Berlin Wall.” The same will be true of President Donald Trump’s doomed wall, which will go against the very nature of life along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

In many places, the U.S.-Mexico border is a separation only in name. The culture, the landscape and the people on either side are very much the same. The border is a place of coexistence for many who live along it. In 2016, Brownsville and Matamoros even wanted to construct a binational bike path along their shared stretch of the border.

Trump’s wall will fail because it will hinder the American economy. Citizens of both countries historically crossed the border regularly to do their everyday shopping. Today, Mexico is the U.S.’s third largest trade partner. The U.S. exported more services but imported more goods from Mexico in 2015. Looking forward, it’s possible for Mexico to become a big consumer of American natural gas, helping to close our over $50 billion trade deficit.

“But, although treaty issues often were at center stage, the dynamic factor in the Berlin situation was the refugee problem,” wrote Steury of those fleeing East Berlin for the more prosperous west. Trump’s wall will not be effective because we have the same refugee problem today. Many who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally are fleeing unsafe situations and poverty in Central or South America. In reality, they are much closer to refugees than criminals. 

Supporters of the wall perpetuate the myth of the lawless immigrant. Trump claims his wall will stop “criminals” and “rapists” that Mexico is “sending.” These falsehoods on their own are not enough to bring down Trump’s wall, but they will be combined with the reality that a wall is the least effective way to stop border crossings. The 654 miles of wall we have now was breached 9,200 times between 2010 and 2015. Trump’s wall will fail because it will not be able to keep people out.

The U.S. is already investing in measures that successfully stop illegal immigration. Since 2005 the likelihood an illegal immigrant from Mexico will be caught rose from 36 to 54 percent in 10 years. Spending on border security has also been on the rise. The U.S. spent $2.3 billion more on border security in 2015 than 10 years ago. Trump’s wall will come down because, sooner or later, we will see that it is unnecessary for border security.

After being unjustifiably expensive to build, it will cost too much money to perpetually repair over 2,000 miles of wall. Trump has indicated his wall will cost around $12 billion to build — and that’s likely an underestimate. The Berlin Wall, which spanned 91 miles, cost around $200 million dollars, adjusted for inflation. 

The Berlin Wall altered an already industrial landscape, but Trump’s lengthy wall threatens multiple ecosystems. The production of a 30 foot concrete wall will not only emit tons of greenhouse gases, but will also block wildlife migrations and cause other environmental damage. Trump’s wall will fall, but it will leave an irreparable scar on the Earth.

In January, Berlin mayor Michael Müller was quoted mirroring Reagan’s famous directive to Gorbachev.  “Dear Mr. President, don’t build this wall,” Müller said.

He was not the first to make the comparison. “I don’t believe that we and Mexico should have any sort of Berlin on our borders,” then Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Clemens told the Dallas Morning News in 1978. Just like in Berlin, Americans will eventually reject Trump’s wall for its promised ineffectiveness and hateful presence.

Maclean is an advertising and geography sophomore from Austin. Follow her on Twitter @maclean_josie.