No New Border Wall and Tear Down The Existing Walls

 

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Because our racist grifter of a President is afraid that Ann Coulter will say mean things about him if he doesn’t get his racist wall on the U.S.-Mexico border the federal government has been shutdown now for almost a month.  On Saturday the dummy President, and supposed excellent deal-maker, offered a 3 year extension for Dreamers in exchange for $5.7 Billion for a border wall.  The Democrats obviously rejected such a stupid proposal since it is the President asking them to bail him out for revoking the Dreamer’s status in the first place.  The whole situation is a complete absurdity but it does bring up a good time to discuss not only the absurdity of any new border structures but also the absurdity of the already existing border structures.

The U.S.-Mexico boarder is approximately 2,000 miles long and there is already over 600 miles of “wall” (including fencing and other structures) on the boarder already.  A Congressional Research Service report from 2016 has all the important details.

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Since 1996 the U.S. has been adding boarder fencing and spending billions of dollars doing it, and what has been the consequence of all this?  From the

Drawing on multiple data sources, the report reviews the state of border security. Robust investments at the border were not associated with reduced unauthorized inflows during the 1980s and 1990s, but a range of evidence suggests a substantial drop in unauthorized inflows from 2007 to 2011, followed by a rise from 2012 to 2014 and a decrease in 2015. Enforcement, along with the 2007 economic downturn in the United States, likely contributed to the drop in unauthorized migration, though the precise share of the decline attributable to enforcement is unknown.

Enhanced border enforcement also may have contributed to a number of secondary costs and benefits. To the extent that border enforcement successfully deters unauthorized entries, such enforcement may reduce border-area violence and migrant deaths, protect fragile border ecosystems, and improve the quality of life in border communities. But to the extent that migrants are not deterred, the concentration of enforcement resources on the border may increase border area violence and migrant deaths, encourage unauthorized migrants to find new ways to enter and to remain in the United States for longer periods of time, damage border ecosystems, harm border-area businesses and the quality of life in border communities, and strain U.S. relations with Mexico and Canada.

Enhanced boarder security had no effect on unauthorized immigration in the 80s and 90s.  Unauthorized immigration declined during the Great Recession which also happened to coincide with increased enforcement efforts so disentangling the causality is difficult, and has fluctuated since despite overall high levels of enforcement efforts (including the presence of existing fencing along the border).  At best we can say that we do not know if all this enforcement effort has had an effect on deterring unauthorized immigration and at worst it has had no effect.  Additionally, all of this enforcement effort (including the existing walls) have had horrible secondary effects.  The existing border walls and heightened enforcement have had horrible humanitarian impacts as the presence of the existing structures force migrants to cross the border in areas that are more dangerous and the tightened enforcement has given rise to a secondary smuggling market with further exploits an already vulnerable population.  The CRS report also shows the the increase in migrant deaths since this lock down on the border started in the 1990s.

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Although the data presented here is noisy and incomplete it still show a consistently higher number of migrant deaths post 1996 than pre 1996.  1996 being when the first border fencing was built.  In addition to being a humanitarian disaster the border wall is also an ecological disaster.  Again from the CRS report:

A third set of potential unintended consequences concern the effect of border enforcement on the environment. As with the effects of enforcement on border crime and violence, the effects of enforcement on the environment are complex because they reflect changes in migrant behavior and the secondary effects of enforcement per se.

On one hand, many unauthorized border crossers transit through sensitive environmental areas, cutting vegetation for shelter and fire, potentially causing wildfires, increasing erosion through repeated use of trails, and discarding trash. Thus, to the extent that border enforcement successfully deters unauthorized flows, enforcement benefits the environment by reducing these undesirable outcomes. On the other hand, the construction of fencing, roads, and other tactical infrastructure may damage border-area ecosystems. These environmental considerations may be especially important because much of the border runs through remote and environmentally

sensitive areas. For this reason, even when accounting for the possible environmental benefits of reduced unauthorized border flows, some environmental groups have opposed border infrastructure projects because they threaten rare and endangered species as well as other wildlife by damaging ecosystems and restricting the movement of animals, and because surveillance towers and artificial night lighting have detrimental effects on migrant birds.

Finally, a third deleterious effect of the border wall and tightened enforcement measures is on civil liberties especially on those who live in the border region.  As this exhaustive report by the Texas Observer shows much of the border region is in effect a police state and because of anti-immigrant hysteria this police state extends effectively 80-100 miles into the interior of the U.S.

Of course Trump is stupid and shutting down the government so he can get his “Big, Beautiful Wall” is exceptionally stupid, but I hope we can also point to the absurdities and negative consequences of our existing border policies as well.  The existing border walls must also be torn down.  They are nothing but monuments to racism and have serious humanitarian, ecological, and civil liberty consequences.  To my fellow Americans I say, “Tear Down This Wall”!

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