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  • Tom Bromwich

The Wall: a 20th Century Answer to a 21st Century Problem?

It seems like the past few weeks have been dominated by a slurry of abnormal normalities (well, nowadays they may be considered normal). The logjam over Brexit legislation, yet more French fuel protests and a seemingly endless US government shutdown are no longer greeted with shock but as something part and parcel of today’s world. For over a month the Democrats and Republicans have been battling over the correct remedy to fix what President Trump has called America’s ‘broken immigration system’. The 45th President’s iconic demand for a border wall has stirred both his base and the Democrats to a point where neither seems prepared to budge. Leading Democrats such as presidential hopeful, Senator Kamala Harris (CA) argue that the wall is a “vanity project” with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi describing it as “unacceptable”. Republicans such as the late Senator John McCain (AZ) expressed the need for more border security, but even he stressed the need to not “hide behind walls, but tear them down” . Ultimately, the wall is a divisive issue across the country. But is it too Game of Throne-sy? Too similar to the dark days of a divided Berlin? Or is it a simple and practical solution to an otherwise uncontrollable problem?

The debate over Trump’s wall has come about over years of illegal immigration and the trafficking of both humans and drugs. The US-Mexico border is clearly a dangerous and permeable one. For example, between 2009 and 2014, the seizure of smuggled heroin has tripled. In 2015, 750 tons of marijuana and 3.2 tons of methamphetamine were found by border patrol agents entering the country from Mexico. Granted, most of these seizures were made at ports of entry which perhaps gives the case against a border wall some credence, however in 2018 18 illegal immigrants were found to have skipped a fence near El Paso, Texas smuggling 453kg of marijuana. Of those arrested one was Elias Serrano, a Mexican convicted for stalking and kidnapping and another an unnamed 30-year old Mexican with ties to the local drug cartel. So not only are the drugs coming into the country incredibly dangerous and powerful enough to destroy communities and families, but the actual smugglers hopping the fence into Texas or Arizona are also dangerous criminals.

In terms of illegal immigration itself, a wall may seem a little inappropriate. Why impose this sort of intimidating barrier on those who are taking desperate attempts to seek a better way of life? Illegal immigration stokes Trump’s base and provokes varying emotions across the political spectrum. What must be highlighted here however is 52% of undocumented immigrants came from Mexico (2016). This is disproportionately high compared to the 5% from Canada and Europe. Likewise, the border between Vermont and Canada has seen 267 illegal crossings by Canadians, in 2018 alone. That being said, on the border between Mexico and Texas there was 16,658 apprehensions of illegal immigrants (in one month), some with a criminal past, some drug trafficking. There is clearly a need for some form of substantial border barrier. The towns and cities along the border cannot cope with continuous trickles of illegal aliens. Some may find jobs, but others will simply live unemployed on the streets. Some may turn to crime. For example, Phoenix has recently been dubbed the “kidnapping capital of the USA” with much of it committed by Mexican drug cartels and illegal immigrants. Additionally, in California Corporal Ronil Singh was murdered by illegal immigrant Gustavo Perez Arriaga soon after he had arrived in the country. Trump’s proposal of a border wall is certainly necessary to keep dangerous illegal immigrants out of the US. It worked in Israel: with illegal immigration falling from 9,500 in 2012 to 36 in 2013. Put simply, walls work.

Whether this is a symbol of Trump’s America requires you to consider what Trump’s America is. You certainly wouldn’t find me hollering his name in 2020, but he has a point. America has for too long been pumping money into an ineffective system of border security. It is like trying to plug a hole in a sinking boat with candyfloss, it hasn’t worked before, it isn’t working now. Radical and to some, un-American, divisive solutions are needed. The wall is certainly something he intends to include in his legacy. It does seem like a showpiece of the ‘Security First’ agenda Trump has taken. Whether it represents all of Trump’s America as a whole is harder to pinpoint, judging that currently America under Trump is characterised by two things: hostile immigration reform and economic success.

Ultimately, the wall is an archaic, grim reminder of how hostile the US can be. Yet modern problems may require dated yet obvious solutions. The scale of dangerous aliens illegally entering the country and the abundance of drugs pouring into the US requires a substantial barrier to protect American citizens. Love it or loathe it, Trump is fulfilling an election promise.

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