Let’s Build a Border Wall
Time and again on my Facebook page, people from the District are asking me about illegal immigration and walls. Although that is a federal issue, and the states have no say in immigration to the US, I’ll address the issue. The most common solutions you hear seem to involve banning Muslims and building walls on the Mexican (but not the Canadian) Border.
Recently Comedian John Oliver took up the subject of ‘Border Walls’ and raised some fascinating points. Though it seems simple, it is a very complexed and expensive undertaking. First, the route will need to be surveyed, land condemned from private landowners and farmers, and roads/utilities extended to prepare for construction. The cost of this stage alone is estimated at several billion dollars (that is a lot of 4 year college educations). Footings need to be laid, then a 30 foot concrete and steel wall built. It then needs to be maintained. Oliver calculated the cost of the construction and upkeep to be about $77 per man/woman/child in the US, or about the cost of a high end waffle iron, one per person.
If you don’t want to believe John Oliver (and why would you, right?) how about CNBC with their article on Trump’s proposed wall. Of note, the 96 mile Berlin Wall cost $200,000,000 in today’s dollars and is between 1/15 and 1/20 the length of the US/Mexican Border (1500 to 2000 miles). And that was a smaller wall. Even FENCING the border is estimated to cost around $2 Billion.
I choose the Great Wall of China for the Image for this page. I could have just as easily chosen Hitler’s Atlantic Wall or France’s Maginot Line (neither of which, shall we say, lived up to expectations either). That is because, the idea of a border wall is not new. The Great Wall of China was a dismal failure when it came to keeping the Mongols out. They just bribed the guards and the gates opened up. Or they went around it, or under it, or for that matter- over it. The only thing a 30 foot border wall would do is create a market for 31 foot ladders and rope. And it wouldn’t even smell like breakfast. It will only smell like failure.
Wouldn’t you rather use that money for education or roads or water pipes for Flint?
Screening Immigration by Religion
The vetting process for legal immigration is exhausting- forms, background checks, sign offs by the State Department, INS, the FBI and, in some cases, credit checks. It takes 18-24 months. But the 9/11 hijackers were willing to put in the time and came into this country legally on various visas. We have had a problem with ‘illegal’ immigration since Plymouth Rock (and recall the pilgrims were religious refugees facing persecution as well). We will have a problem with illegal immigration, wall or not, we will simply do the best we can to screen, sponsor, settle and employ our legal immigrants and deport, incarcerate or simply continue to employ the illegal ones. Our best move is to get them into the naturalization process once they are here, or to decrease their incentive to come here by improving conditions in their home countries.
To demonize an entire religion and refuse to take Muslims really makes no sense. There is not blood test for Islam. The good people will be truthful and be ‘banned’ from the country and the bad ones will claim to be Episcopal. Do we simply ban people with brown skin? Perhaps that explains why their isn’t a cry to build a wall along the Canadian Border.
Take a Step Back
This is America. We are Americans. The thing that makes us different from the former Soviet Union is that we are NOT an armed camp, suspicious of all outsiders. We have dreams and ambitions, we can go as far as our abilities and opportunities can take us. We welcome other to join us. We remember 9/11, but realize the vast majority of horrible crimes are committed by native born, Christian Americans, not Muslims coming into the country. We are a land of opportunity, not a land of walls. 9/11 created a climate of fear, the very definition of terrorism. We defeat terrorism by NOT BEING AFRAID. We welcome people, rather than fear them. We cherish freedom and privacy, rather than restrict it. We build bridges, not walls.
Going back to the Berlin Wall- On the world stage and in East Germany the wall was not viewed as ‘border protection’. It was a symbol of oppression, and cause for celebration when it was torn down. Pieces of the wall were sent all over the world as symbols of people overcoming fear. This is America. The world sees our symbols- the Statue of Liberty, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Hoover Dam and other great works of civil engineering. We don’t need to make an ineffective, expensive, gold plated wall a symbol of our nation.
I’m all for security. I’m all for a strong border. But I am not inclined to fight fear with money better used improving our roads, education, and opportunities. I prefer education and quality of life over concrete and false security. If that costs me votes, so be it, but you know where I stand.