The southwest border wall proposed by President Donald Trump would cost $5.7 billion, or about 0.03% of the United States gross domestic product and 0.13% of the year’s projected federal spending, according to an article published in the Wall Street Journal. Further, compare that to former President Barack Obama’s administration’s $12.7 billion pledged funding of a proposed rail to connect New York and New Jersey; the cost of a border wall appears miniscule. Additionally, Democrats support increased immigration funding for fences, levees, judges and patrol agents. Immigration reform tracts bi-partisan support, effort and legislation. So, why is a wall so strongly opposed by Democrats and even some Republicans like myself?
Physical barriers itself are not at issue here. Democrats and Republicans alike have history of supporting fencing and other protective barriers in order to increase security. Does the rhetoric of a wall differ from that of a fence, even though fences have historically been employed to enclose ghettos and concentration camps? No, walls and fences themselves do not have an innate abrasive rhetoric. It is people who give context and rhetoric to the object.
There is nothing about building a wall that inherently aligns with my Republican ideas, just as there would be nothing naturally wrong with building a wall around a piece of land. Yet through Trump’s oratory, he has created the idea of a wall to be an emblem of the Republican party. Increased fencing, funding for judges, patrol agents and technology could all protect the nation from allowing human rights violators into the country – and has received bipartisan support – but that is not Trump’s style. As a successful businessman, he knows he must maintain his theatric brand and uphold his promises in order to keep his following. Trump’s show aside, Republicans should oppose the wall, not just in the interest of immigration reform, but even for the interest of their own party.
Trump has made it clear he is willing to declare a national emergency in order to build this wall: “I probably will do it – I would almost say definitely.” Democrats prove resilient in opposing funding for the wall, so the likelihood of a national emergency increases every day. Republicans would face serious repercussions should this happen, opening a precedent for future presidents – including Democrats – to declare national emergencies in order to achieve a specific political agenda. Employing the military would only increase expenses.
Asking Republicans to focus on means of border security other than a wall is not asking them to give up a political agenda or ideology, because it only became a value through Trump’s persuasion. Yes, many countries around the world utilize walls to protect their borders. But when did America pride itself on following the examples of other countries? We have fought in wars to combat the suppressions of fascism, communism and terrorism across oceans. We have brought supplies to those caged by the Soviet Union with the Berlin Airlift. We have maintained an understanding that conflicts around the world affect us and have intervened. Why would we concentrate efforts on building a static object rather than actively combat a problem so geographically close? Today’s conflicts facing the southern border include abominable human rights violations, which Trump correctly wants to keep out of our nation. But building a wall is not the American way. Innovating new strategies, technology and ideas to combat those who transgress not only Americans, but others close to us, is not only the American way, but the effective way.
Americans from all parties crave, perhaps now more than ever, increased order and dignity within the immigration system. As with most political debates, the favored means of achieving such reform may vary. However, if legislators place their emphasis on the forms of physical barriers and human patrol that both parties find acceptable, it may prove instrumental in appealing to the president and promoting rectification of the system.