History tells us that nations often resort to building a wall when tensions with neighboring countries are high. According to the New York Times, President Donald Trump plans to divert $7.2 billion from the Pentagon to help build a border wall between the United States and Mexico.
Though sometimes it may seem that the current immigration crisis is over exaggerated, we are engaged in a fight for the American heritage we hold so dear and a country of citizens who understand this heritage. Our heritage lies within our ability to agree on certain issues that cement the ethical basis for America. The value of human life, limited government, and individual responsibility are the pillars upon which America stands. This great heritage impresses on us the responsibility to solve the immigration crisis. Part of that solution lies in a border wall.
This is a problem rooted in what it actually means to be an American. The idea of citizenship in the United States is not merely a geographic term or participation in the American economy. It’s about upholding liberty, the rule of law, the value of human life, and human rights. These values define American society.
Failure to secure the border makes it challenging to ensure that those who become participants in the American story share these values. A legal immigrant becomes a citizen because they respect these values. An illegal immigrant disrespects them by not becoming a citizen at all.
A border wall between the United States and Mexico is neither an act of violence against Mexico nor those from Central American countries who hope to immigrate to the United States. Instead, it is a proven way of stopping the flow of undocumented immigrants in order to protect American culture and ideas.
The vast majority of border walls today are built by nations in dangerous parts of the world who have found success by preventing illegal immigration. Israel, located in an area affected by political turmoil, erected a border wall on the West Bank in order to deter terrorism and illegal immigration. This strategy has proven to be 80% effective, according to Israel’s Foreign Ministry. When interviewed about their border, Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto told Fox News, “Since we built a fence, and since the police and army have been there, we basically have no illegal migrants on the territory of the country.”
If the United States seriously wants to solve the issue of illegal immigration, it is time to take a look at how the wall helps to make sure America stays American.
Countries need secure borders. The more information the government has on its immigrant population, the better they can help immigrants to integrate. Due to the current state of the visa system, there is a disconnect. Some individuals hoping to reside in the United States permanently abuse the visa system and overstay, undetected by the U.S. government. About 40% of illegal immigrants enter the country legally, but outstay their visas according to the nonpartisan Center for Migration Studies.
Now, there is a silent population of 10.5 million undocumented immigrants as of 2017.
Illegal immigration has taken a toll on government welfare programs. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, illegal immigration is responsible not only for a lower employment rate among less-educated Americans, but also lower wages.
“Low-skilled native workers would be helped by the wall as they would face less competition from illegal immigrants. High-skilled workers would face less competition from immigrants… who work in high technology jobs,” the Center for Immigration Studies reported.
According to the Orange County Register, “These foreigners are mostly hardworking, decent people. But they’re taking jobs that would have otherwise gone to American workers — and black Americans are especially hurt. The glut of foreign labor enables employers to hold down wages, making it harder for working-class Americans to bootstrap their way into the middle-class.”
Mark Morgan, a border patrol chief under former President Barack Obama, said that despite bipartisan support to stem illegal immigration, something changed: “What changed is that at one point it was wanted and needed, and now, because we call it a wall, it’s immoral. Really? That’s what we’re talking about now? The size and width of the barrier is the delineation of what is moral or not?”
One of the most popular objections to the wall is its price. The most liberal of these price estimates suggests the wall would cost around $20 billion, an amount that sounds staggeringly large, especially from the perspective of a tax-payer. However, the wall would cost only 0.0338% of the federal budget. This is just a fraction of what it would take to continue financing government programs for low-income immigrant families, who cost the U.S. approximately $50 billion each year, according to the Heritage Foundation. A border wall would, in fact, be cost effective.
Though a wall is not a perfect solution, segments of walls along the U.S.-Mexico border have helped cut the flow of undocumented migrants entering the country. A section of the wall along the border near the town of Yuma, Arizona, has proven to be more than 90% effective, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Unfortunately, the wall has become a symbol of racism to many Americans, who think erecting it is the national equivalent of spitting on Mexico. The truth, however, is that the wall is not for the purpose of excluding all Central American and Mexican migrants from the United States, but rather of preserving America from the negative economic effects of a large population of undocumented immigrants.
The wall is a rational course of action for a country that is in dire need of self-definition. Building a wall is the first step toward an America that allows immigrants the real opportunity to become Americans, not just have better jobs.
Quin Calhour is a freshman studying biology.