Mark Napier, the Republican sheriff of Pima County in Arizona, spoke to the New York Times podcast ‘The Daily’ regarding President Donald Trump’s demands for a wall on the United States-Mexico border. Pima County is a “border county”, sitting right on the boundary between the United States and Mexico.
While most Americans are against a border wall, Trump and his hardcore supporters are determined to see the President’s biggest election campaign pledge become a reality. In fact, Donald Trump went out of his way and claimed the border was in “crisis” to keep the United States government partly shut down because the Democrats refused to fund it. But is a wall needed, and are the claims Donald Trump is making valid?
One of the most persistent, and in theory logical, claims about the border wall is that it will reduce the number of immigrants exploiting weaknesses at the border and crossing illegally. There are, after all, several parts of the wall with no pedestrian blockades.
However, much of the border is protected by the Rio Grande river, which, unless people are prepared to swim across, forms a natural barrier against illegal immigration. A vast majority of the land border is protected against vehicular entry, which means there are essentially no areas of the border where immigrants can drive through unchecked. In other words, only a small amount of the border does not already have some form of protection, be pedestrian, vehicular, or natural.
All a border wall would do is reinforce existing border security. At a cost ranging anywhere from $5bn-$20bn (depending on which Trump figure you take), the wall would be an incredibly inefficient use of money. It could be better spent investing in more border security personnel, or more advanced technology to scan people and vehicles for drugs, as Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi advocated recently.
In his election campaign to become President, Donald Trump constantly tarnished Mexicans crossing the border claiming they were criminals bringing drugs and crime. Of course, I will not deny that some people who cross the border are human traffickers, gang members or other types of criminal.
However, the CATO Institute, a US libertarian think-tank, found that in Texas Americans were twice as likely to be a victim of a crime to an American national than an immigrant. The vast majority of those at the U.S.-Mexico border are desperate people looking to escape their lives in Central America. Innocent women and children looking to better themselves by moving to a nation that provides more opportunity. A border wall will not stop these people attempting to emigrate to the United States. That’s before you even mention the fact that immigrants have been tunneling under the existing border protection for years.
The President also claimed that drugs are flowing over the border with Mexico, contributing to the United States’ chronic opioid problem. However, this claim is simply untrue. U.S. Customs and Border Protection figures show that 90% of the illegal drugs entering the United States come through what are known as ports of entry – road or rail border points, airports, and seaports. Individuals smuggling drugs across the border contribute very little to the number of drugs arriving into the United States. Even El Chapo, the legendary Mexican drug lord admitted in court that cartels such as his find it easier to smuggle drugs into the United States through ports of entry than across the land border.
While Donald Trump and his supporters are adamant that a wall needs to be built, the facts and statistics simply do not support their case. As I already said, the vast majority of the border already has some form of protection along with it. All the while, the President continues to scapegoat innocent refugees who are simply trying to escape the troubles in Central America. The money the President wants to spend on a border wall would be better spent on more staff and better technology at the ports of entry where most of the drugs the President is concerned about actually enter the United States. A border wall will not solve the problems the President hopes it will.