The Wall Is the Dimateric Opposite Symbol Of Who We Are
To The Editor,
If I thought for a moment that the proposed wall along our border with Mexico would make a significant difference in our national security, reduce drug flow and crime, boost our economy, or any of the other things its proponents claim it would do, I would be in favor of it. But I don’t think those things, and I’ll try to explain why.
Illegal drugs enter our country largely hidden in trucks, planes, and boats, all entering legally and passing through security checks. Almost none are carried into the country by refugees along the Mexican border. There would be no significant reduction of drug trafficking with a wall.
Statistics show that immigrants are far less likely to commit crimes than native-born citizens. If you want to argue that all should be banned because a few are dangerous, you might as well claim that all guns should be confiscated because a few abuse them. Acts of terrorism have virtually all been committed by native born citizens or legal immigrants. And almost all undocumented immigrants are people who came here legally, with various sorts of visas, and have overstayed their expiration dates. They’re not entering illegally across the Mexican border. There would be no significant reduction in crime or acts of terrorism with a wall.
Even if refugees from the south were a significant threat, the likelihood that a wall would be effective in deterring them is very small. A wall can be (and frequently has been) tunneled under, climbed over, and sailed around. Our entire northern border, and the whole of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts, would still be open. I’ve read that in the not-too-distant future, it will be possible for drones to carry people over the wall. A wall would not be effective in preventing illegal entry.
Most economists agree that immigrants add more to our GNP than they extract from government aid. Documented immigrants aren’t eligible for most government programs until they’ve been in the country for five years. Undocumented ones are never eligible. Every time an immigrant pays for food, housing, transportation, entertainment, water, heating, clothing, or services (and pays the same taxes on such transactions as citizens do) he or she strengthens our economy. And citizens are not losing jobs to immigrants.
Traditionally, immigrants take the jobs native-borns won’t do. Job losses are due largely to automation, overseas outsourcing, the weakening of unions, lack of appropriate training, and corporate mergers, not to immigration. There would be no economic gain with a wall.
Apparently, none of the prototypes currently under consideration for the wall has been designed by an engineer. All of them to date have been created by contractors. Experts are seeing major problems with terrain, flooding, habitat destruction, viability, durability, and maintenance. Current plans for a wall create more problems more serious than those they propose to solve.
Massive legal problems are likely to occur. There are still many cases pending regarding sections of wall that were built years ago. Frequently the government has had to rely upon imminent domain to secure the land on which to build the wall. That means taking private properties without the consent of the owners, with restitution to be decided by federal agencies. I foresee years and years of expensive litigation ahead, long after the current administration in Washington is gone. Again, a wall will create problems more serious than those it proposes to solve.
Large government projects seem virtually never to come in at estimated costs. The $5 billion now being sought is admittedly only a beginning, and I don’t doubt that even the relatively small section that that’s supposed to fund will end up costing much, much more.
The cost for the entire wall has been projected as anywhere from $21 billion to over $70 billion. And that’s just for the original construction. With maintenance and staffing costs for an indefinite amount of time figured in, the final price could easily be in the hundreds of billions of dollars. The wall is not cost-effective. It will create problems more serious than those it proposes to solve.
And where will that money go? I suspect that we will see a repeat of the situation with Halliburton in Iraq. Contracts worth billions of dollars will be awarded without bidding to friends and cronies and donors of influential politicians, with no federal oversight. We’ll be paying $50 for a pencil, $200 for a 40-pound bag of cement, and millions a year to CEOs of contracting companies. The wall will enrich a few at the expense of many. It will be wasteful in the extreme.
And consider what this wall will look like to our children and grandchildren fifty years from now. I think it unlikely to be seen as a symbol of strength. I believe it will be looked upon instead as a symbol of a people lacking confidence in our institutions, ignorant of our history, and fearful for our future. I think that would be a false representation. I don’t think as a nation that these are our dominant qualities. I don’t think they should be presented to posterity as who we were at the beginning of the 21st century.
I want border security. I do not favor illegal immigration. I believe our current immigration policies need change. But a wall is not the answer. It will be ineffective, tremendously expensive, and a sign of a frightened, declining nation.
It would represent the diametric opposite of that great image of who I believe we really are, the Statue of Liberty. The statue stands for American confidence, generosity, openness, courage, and promise; the wall, for fear, racism, bigotry, greed, and decline. Whatever we may intend it to be, that is how the world will interpret it.
If you see this differently, I would be interested in knowing why.
10 East St., Ayer, MA