Date of Submission:
The US-Mexico Border Debate
The United States and Mexico have always had a problem concerning the security along the border lines of these two countries. The issue of illegal immigrants, terrorist threats and the trafficking of drugs and armies across these borders is what have always spooked up the issues of contention between these two countries. Because this issue was slowly becoming a national security threat to the Unites States, in the year 2005, the US congress passed a motion tabled in government. This motion suggested the erection of a border wall that will separate the US from Mexico. The US congress approved the 2 billion dollar project to put up the US-Mexico border wall.
With the exclusion of the San Diego County whose border wall which has shown some significant results, the rest of the remaining 2000 miles of the fence on the border has got nothing to show for its purpose. Even with the border wall being put in place, the rates of the illegal immigrants, drug trafficking and other illegal activities happening across this border is still on the increase. It has come to be a reality to the US government that these issues are a global problem and there is no way that they are going to solve the problem by simply erecting a wall. However, despite this alarm of the insignificance of the border wall, the US government continues to invest tax payer’s money to support the building of this wall. This has raised concerns on the significance of this project and the question ringing in everybody’s mind now is
“Should the US continue to build the US-Mexico border wall?”
This is the thesis for my research.
The United States and Mexico are connected by a two thousand mile border. This border stretches from San Diego, California all the way to Brownsville Texas. The relationship between the US government and the Mexican immigrants has always been a turbulent one when it came to the matters concerning the immigration law. However, this relation has always been a changing one. Up until the World War 1, the people from Mexico had been granted the freedom of crossing the border and accessing the USA easily and freely. In 1930, these borders were closed. This was during the Great Depression. The US Government decided that the Mexican descendants would no longer be granted the freedom to access the United States despite the fact that half of these Mexican descendants were already US citizens (Amnesty International). When the World War II began, these borders opened up once again. The Mexican Workers were welcomed into the United States once again and this time round it was so that they could be incorporated into the US work force. They were important in helping to sustain the US military as well as the industries. Since this time in the 1950’s, the acceptance wave of these immigrants into the US has been going on. This has happened from the period of expelling the immigrants from the country up until the period of the immigrant amnesty in 1980 by the Regan administration. Because of the opening up of these borders, the number of the immigrants increased over the years. In the year 2000, the figure was at 8.5 million and this has significantly gone up to 11.8 million in the year 2007. This indicated more and more immigrants were getting into the United States (Hoefer, & Rytina & Backer, 2008).
Several ideas had been put forth with the effort to help stop these illegal activities taking place at the borders. Border patrol was one among the many other initiatives that had been started to help curb this problem. In 1920, the US congress instituted this scheme. Border patrol was started with the aim of stopping the smuggling of goods and also drugs across these US border with Mexico. By the year 1950, the issue of the illegal immigrants into the United States became a national security threat. The numbers of the immigrants was on the rise and this prompted the increase in the numbers of the officers put in the border patrol troops to help deal with this issue. However, this did not stop the issue of the immigrants and the illegal activities going on in the border because the units deployed to guard these borders were under staffed and could not control the situation. The units were only able to focus on certain areas and as a result left other zones of the border unguarded (United States border control and the Secure Fence Act, 2006). This prompted the need to look for a new solution to this problem and a different way of tackling the issue.
By estimation, in a single year between 400,000 and 1 million illegal immigrants try to cross into the United States using the rivers and the deserts located on the US-Mexico border that stretches to over 2000 miles. In the year 2005, the border patrol reportedly apprehended over 1.2 illegal immigrants at this border. In August 2005, the governor of New Mexico and Arizona claimed that their states were suffering from the insecurities caused by the illegal immigrants as well as the drug trafficking and smuggling that was going on. They declared a state of emergency in their states. In November 2005, District Homeland Security made an announcement on the launch of a Multibillion dollar program. This was the Secure Border Initiative. It was aimed at securing the borders of the United States and also curbing down on the numbers of the illegal immigrants into the United States (Globalsecurity.org, 2010). A wall was going to be constructed at the border line of the US and Mexico and it was going to act as a barrier between the two countries along the whole stretch of the border. The Mexican President Vicente Fox denounced this idea. In a statement issued on 14 December 2005, he termed the idea to erect a high tech wall on the US-Mexico border as disgraceful and shameful. His statement was also given a backing by members of his government. On 21 December 2005, the Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez was quoted saying “Mexico is not going to bear, it is not going to permit, and it will not allow a stupid thing like this wall” (Globalsecurity.org, 2010). However, this did not stop the US government.
At the US-Mexican border in San Diego California had devised a method of dealing with this problem of illegal immigrants by building a wall and this program had already given positive results. According to the assessment of the facts emerging from this project, Congressman and Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Duncan Hunter had some positive proposals to put forth from this project. He sated that the border fence had been able to cut down the number of illegal immigrants caught in the US crossing this border from “202,000 in the year 1992 to approximately only 9000 in the year 2004” (United States. House of Representatives, 2005). Backing up this information was the report by the FBI Crime Index that indicated that the crime rate in the county of San Diego had gone down by a whole 47.3% between the year 1989 and the year 2000. (United States. House of Representatives, 2005). These reports about the border fence proved that the project was worth a try in the whole stretch of the border, as it had proven its worth. The US congress deliberated on this report and found them to be very encouraging. Thus, the congress went forth to approve the 2 billion dollar project and gave the go ahead to construct the US-Mexican border wall.
Parties of Controversy
The program to construct the US-Mexico border wall was not without controversy. Immediately the program was proposed, it attracted a huge debate about its positive effects in controlling the immigrants and the illegal trafficking into the United States, as well as its negative effects on the environment and also the relations between the US and Mexico. There were major proponents of this program who argued in the best interest of the wall being set up and there were also major opponents who pointed out the adverse effects of this wall. Both parties had got their issues which they raised to support their arguments and the basis of which they took their stand on this matter.
Among those who supported the building of this border wall were Federation for American Immigration Reform FAIR, Weneedafence.com, The Minuteman Project and You Don’t Speak for Me. These were organised groups and organisations that raised support for this project. The United States-Mexico border is a place where a lot of exchange for various goods and activities always takes place. At this border, there is exchange of people, technology, capital, illegal and legal goods and even humans. In an effort to make the border more useful, in 1960s, the Mexican government decided to try out a project. It prompted foreign investors to put up facilities along this border that will at least create low skilled jobs. In January 1 1994, the United States, Mexico and Canada made a trade pact that would allow the people to benefit from these facilities. This was the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This pact was vital to the people as it made them benefit from the expansion of the businesses as well as having a piece in globalization. NAFTA enabled the border to grow. Factories were put up along this border. Many of these factories did not last for more than half a decade because the corporations took advantage of the tax that was being levied. This made the factories to close down and opt to shift to China where it was much cheaper in terms of labour. With the relocation of these factories, the border was left once again open to the illegal activities to set in once more.
The proponents of the US-Mexico border wall were looking into the vulnerability that the border had been left to and this is why they felt it was important that the border had to be enclosed. With the migration of the factories from the border, it was left prone to illegal activities like drug trafficking, insecurity levels were on the rise and these issues were affecting the United States. The number of Illegal Immigrants from Mexico to the United States was on the increase and they were causing instability in the United States. It is because of these issues that the proponents of this debate felt that the border wall was supposed to be put up. This wall was believed to be able to cut down on the number of immigrants getting into the United States as well as the illegal activities that were taking place along the border. The proponents for this border project had got various reasons as to why they supported it.
- The War on Drugs
Because of the poverty levels that are there in Mexico, there is a lot of attraction to many of the residents to the huge profits and the money that comes in huge amounts from the drug trafficking. This illegal activity of the drug cartel industries has made the US-Mexico border a very dangerous place to be at. The activities are normally run by some big rich people who will got o all extents just to make sure that their businesses are flowing smoothly. The Amount of cocaine that enters into the United States is in huge amounts and this is becoming a national security problem for the drug abuse issue. A lot of this cocaine comes into the country through this border and the figures go high to as much as 90%. For a long period of time, since the early 1980s, Mexico has economically benefited from this narcotic trade. Their economy is believed to be stabilized by this industry as in a year, it bring s in a total of thirty to fifty billion dollars. The drug cartels continue to raise everyday and they become even more powerful as each day goes by dominating the drug markets in the US completely (Wood, 2009).
This transit of the drugs to the United States has beefed up the insecurity issues. The various drug cartels continue to fight for the transit routes into the US from Colombia. Among this Cartels are the main ones who seem to be the ones that are always running the show. These major cartels that are stronger have formed alliances with the criminal gangs as well as the law enforcers so that they can be able to run their businesses without worrying about the thought of looking behind their shoulders every time. The corrupted enforcers that are part of these cartels are in huge numbers but lucky enough for the United States, most of them are from Mexico. The danger posed by these drug cartels is one that cannot simply be ignored and brushed aside. Currently, over 23,000 people have been killed by these drug cartels or from disagreements emerging from this drug deals since the year 2006 in December. In the year 2009, nearly a total number of 8,000 people were killed. Half of the casualties in this tragedy were in the states at the US-Mexico border. Most of these drug related killings are concentrated in some three major cities. These are Tijuana, Culiacan and Ciudad Juarez. All these cities are located along the US-Mexico border. Among the three, Ciudad Juarez is the most dangerous. This city rests on the US-Mexico border. In the year 2009 alone, it suffered a death toll of 2,600 with another 400 to come early in 2010. On 31st of January 2010, s shootout occurred in this city. It claimed a number of lives, among them students who had completely no connection to the gangs that were supplying these drugs. On 13th of March, another shootout claimed lives. This time it was American citizens. A U.S Consulate, her husband and a rancher from Arizona lost their lives here. As these cartels continue to battle for the cities, more violence is in the offing and the United States cannot simply turn a blind eye to this issue. The violence has now spread beyond the United States-Mexico into the United States.
The proponents of the building of the US-Mexico wall had got this issue of the drug cartels in mind when they sought to defend its significance. The border wall would be able to control the number of people that got across this border and into the United States. The regulation of the peoples would help in cutting down the number of these cartels that go past the U.S border and cause insecurities in the cities of the United States (Skinner, 2010). The construction of this border wall will also make it easier for the U.S troops that guard this border to be able to know when somebody tries to make an illegal entry from any part of the border apart from the legal ones put forward by the United States. Motion sensors and alarms will be installed in the border wall to trigger off when an illegal attempt is made. The war on drugs is an issue that is destabilizing the US security as well as the U.S economy and this is an issue that the government has to deal with. This was a strong argument put forth by those who were in support of this project taking phase, they strongly believed that the border wall will cut down on the drug war that was going on at the border and as a result help protect the American citizens.
- National and Public Insecurity
Mexico has overtime even been referred to by some people as being a “failed state”. This is because, despite the plenty of evidence that drug cartels are running illegal businesses in the streets of Mexico in open air, nothing is being done about it. The Cartels have penetrated the law enforcement agencies as well as the military and are now running their businesses without any fear whatsoever of being apprehended for their activities. Public insecurity in this country has diminished and the administration of justice has been left with very little trust in their enforcement of the law. With the new way that the Unites States is conducting vigilance along its borders, there has been no easy flow of the drugs into the U.S. This decrease in the flow of their drugs has greatly angered the cartels as it interferes with their money that they normally bag in from these shipments. As a result, it has forced the cartels to engage into other activities to generate their revenue. Kidnapping has thus become a major problem at the borders as it continues to be on the rise. This particularly is on the rise at Tijuana. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I) has reported opening a lot of cases relating to these kidnappings. The involved victims have found themselves being taken across the borders and held for a ransom. The cartels have reportedly also decided to engage in firearm smuggling across the border (Skinner, 2010).
This smuggling has been the main source for nearly 95% of Mexico killings that are somehow linked to the drugs. Over 2,000 firearms are smuggled daily into the United States from Mexico and this are sold to criminal gangs who use them to carry out heists in the United States. Gun sales have become a grown industry in the United States and the brokers for these businesses are increasing every day. The insecurity of the people of United States living in cities near this border has greatly been put in jeopardy. The people live in fear for being harmed or even killed whenever these gangs engage each other and the innocent civilians are caught in the middle of it all. There is a rise in the number of criminals and the criminal gangs in the streets of the United States. This is majorly due to the fact that the numbers of illegal firearms that are in the streets are many in number and most of the criminals are able to get their hands on these firearms.
There was a proposal by the government for dealing with the problem of the immigrants at the border. The strategy that had been proposed was one that was to offer enforcement only. However, there were a few people that did not agree with this idea by the government concerning the fencing of the border. Among these groups included National Immigration Forum, the US Chamber of Commerce, American Immigration Lawyers Association and Environment and Conservation Activists. They based their opposition on various factors that they felt would be negative effects of this wall being put up.
- Human Rights concerns
A doctor from Princeton University had researched on this topic and offered an argument to support the opposition to fencing the U.S-Mexico border. There were two arguments regarding this opposition. These were human rights concerns and the effect that this project would have on the United States economy. Dr. Douglass Massey, a professor at Princeton University put forth an argument for this proposed project on the basis of human rights. He had done a research on the effects of fences at the crossing points normally located on the borders.
According to his research, these fences tend to increase the number of people that cross these borders. The numbers of people who get apprehended at these fenced zones normally tends to increase. Therefore, the success of the project of fencing being relied upon to limit these illegal immigrants from moving into the country is not a viable one. His research also brought up some interesting facts about the effects of this fence. With the wall being built at the popular zones that most of the people are used to crossing from, it does not stop them from crossing these borders. As a matter of fact, it makes the crossing points be relocated by the immigrants to a more remote, area that has got a limited surveillance. The point that Dr. Massey was pointing out is that, this relocation of the crossing point by the immigrants poses a risk to the lives of this immigrants. This is because of the harsh conditions that these are exposed to when they are crossing the border at these points. The United States Bureau of Land Management normally is responsible for taking care of large tracks of land along the US-Mexico border. This land normally includes Wilderness areas National Parks as well s National Forests located along this border. These are the areas that are target points to the people looking to migrate illegally into the United States as well as the drug traffickers. These areas are very remote and the Immigrants normally use that to their advantage to avoid surveillance by the Guards at these points because they know that the guards will not look for them at places that are so interior. The building of this wall will push these immigrants deep into the forests and in the dangerous places. This will expose them to the wild animals and the dangers of being dehydrated, getting exhausted because of the heat and even death because of all these. According to the human rights act, no person should be allowed to go through all that (McFayden, 2010).
As much as they are illegal immigrants, they too have got the right to have their lives protected for them. The human rights activists were against the building of this wall because of the danger that it was going to pose to the immigrants. Apprehension of the illegal immigrants at the border and sending them back to their countries was being looked at as a better method of dealing with this situation. The immigrant’s lives were still being protected much as they were being denied access into this country. Building a wall will drive them straight into the danger zone as they will have no other option but to find other means of crossing the border and this will mean heading for the forests and such. As much as the border wall was offering security, it was going to expose them to dangers and eventually be the cause of their deaths. The human rights activists were against this idea.
- The US economy
The United States already is running on a tight budget. The building of this wall was estimated to take up around 2 billion US dollars. This was a costly budget and it was going to take up a lot of money that could have been put into better things for the tax payers to benefit. This idea made it even harder for most of the economists to accept this project to kick off. The maintenance of this wall would be a really costly one. After the wall has been built, it will have to be checked time after time for the damages and also for the repairs to be done. This would mean extra expenditure to the United States budget. There will be several damages that can occur. An example of this is the Arizona flash floods that have always caused a lot of damages each time they take place. These floods will definitely damage the wall and this will call for extra costs for the repairs (Archibold, 2010).
The pumping of all that money into building a wall did not seem right to the economists because the US has got other issues that it has got to deal with which are of more priority than that. The US has got education and the health care to deal with. Improving the education levels and the health standards for this country are more important and more justified than putting up a wall that will do nothing but simply add extra costs. The building of this wall had thus been already seen to impact negatively on the US economy as it will increase costs and budgeting to areas which are least important to the people of United States. This border wall will also affect the business of the people in the United States. It will cut off a lot of the customers who often cross the border so that they can do their shopping and also conduct other businesses. The border fence was going to stop this trade and this will of course be a problem to the economy build up. Hence, the border wall was going to be a huddle to the US economy growing and that did not draw support for its commencement.
- Illegal Immigration
According to previous evidence, the numbers of the illegal immigrants crossing the border has always somewhat been to the rise every time the security is beefed up and the government wants to set up fences and barriers. The increase in the surveillance and the check up on the border activities has always failed to prevent the numbers of the illegal immigrants into the United States. This has been the case for a period of over 20 years now. Normally, instead of cutting down on the numbers of this illegal immigrants, it has always increased their desire to come to the United States. They get more curious of what it is that they are bring prevented from accessing and most of them always end up concluding that it is a good life that they are missing. This tends to draw a majority of them into the United States. The end result for this is that the immigrants are forced top find alternative ways for accessing the borders and are thus caught in the middle of dangerous places as they try to use this means (Amnesty International, 2010). Building of this wall will not in any way stop the illegal immigrants from accessing the United States. Evidence has shown that the more the US tries to enforce its borders, the more immigrant business has become more and more on the rise. The illegal immigrant smuggling business in Mexico has been evidently among the leading industries in this city for generation of income. It is on the same level as the drug industry and the tourism industry in terms of generating the revenue.
The US-Mexico border wall that had been proposed was to be a 700 mile wall. However, the US –Mexico border is a stretch of roughly 2000 miles long. According to the statistics, it was clear that the illegal Immigrants were going to obviously go round the wall or better still, about a whole two thirds of the border will still be accessible to them to cross whenever they want. This showed the inefficiency of the fence as it was not going to stop the illegal immigration from taking place. The illegal immigrants might as well just climb over the fence and be able to access the US. This had been evidenced in San Diego. Here, as soon as the completion of the wall had been done, the Immigrants found other means of crossing and that was by going over the wall. Tunnels were also being looked at as a way of getting through the border without being noticed. The immigrants will simply dig tunnels to go across the border because a wall has been put in place. In 2001 and 2006, there was a record of 40 tunnels that were discovered (Globalsecurity.org, 2010). Evidently, this was enough reason for the opponents to reject this project because all factors considered it was not going to stop illegal immigration. If anything the illegal immigrants were going to find other means of going round the border either by tunnels, by using boats, or by using false paper and visas. Building up a wall was clearly not going to stop these immigrations.
Historically, increase of the control of the borders has not always decreased the illegal immigrations. According to a study conducted before by Wayne Cornelius, a political science professor and director of the centre for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California, San Diego, he proved this was right in his report. The report showed that, the stronger border controls have got no statistical significant effect on the ideas of these immigrants to get into the United States. If anything, these borders only give the immigrants ideas on how to stay in the US even longer once they are across (Pan, 2006). According to his study, he found out that among the Mexicans he included in his research, 37 percent of them were still in the US for a longer period than they had expected to. They did this because of the new regulations that had been put in place. Another 79 percent had got knowledge of a person who did not go back to Mexico because of the increased security at the borders. Experts have ultimately come to the conclusion that, making these borders stronger by building a wall will not in anyway stop these illegal immigrants.
- Environmental Effects
Environmental concerns on the effects of this US-Mexico border wall were also a major point of argument for those who were opposing its being built up. Among the major point of concerns was the wildlife that was going to be affected by this project. The border wall was going to cut right through the habitat for the wildlife and it was going to create a partition in their home. Animals are known to move back and forth in at the forests and they do this not at specified times only but at any time. The building of this wall was going to be a danger to the already endangered species of wild animals. This border was going to cut through Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, Big Bend National Park, the Lower Rio Grande Valley Wildlife Refuge, and the Rio Grande near El Paso (Andrienne, 2008). Within these areas that the border was going to cut through, there are habitats for some of the endangered species. These include the Jaguar and the Mexican black bear. The building of this wall right across the national parks and the wildlife conservation areas was definitely going to cause a destabilization on this endangered species. It was feared that this wall will result in the complete extinction of this animals because they may fail to get access to the other side of the park in order to mate or to go look for food. Extinction of these animals would be a big blow to the tourism industry and that could not be allowed to happen.
The border wall was supposed to be a protective measure that will help the US be able to control its borders. However, the effects that it showed to have on the environment had not been everybody’s cup of tea. If the border wall was going to have such adverse effects on the environment, this meant that its purpose will be fulfilled but at even greater costs because of its consequences. This was not a viable argument for those who were against it. If it was going to destroy the environment in the process, then it was better to do without it (Cooper,2010).
- International Relations
While considering the effects that this border wall will have on international relations, this was arguably the most common and the strongest point of contention for rejection. This wall was being looked at and being compared to the Berlin Wall. It was being looked at as a sign of “exceptionalism” by the United States. The wall was going to undermine all the effort that has been put by the two governments into creating a democracy between them much as the wall was going to be of security concern, it was being looked at as going to be painting a very bad picture between the two governments. The best interests for the US government lie in close relations with the Mexican Government. If they were to destroy this good relation by erecting a wall, the economy of the US would definitely suffer a huge blow
This was why there was a lot of opposition to the setting up of this wall. Walls make even the good neighbors look bad. They paint a certain picture of mistrust among people. This was going to be the case between the US government and the government of Mexico if this project was going to pull through.
According to the evidence provided above, it is clear that the US-Mexico border was slowly becoming a threat both to the United States government and to the citizens of the United States. Something had to be done about the illegal activities that were being carried out at the border as well as the illegal immigrants that were crossing over to be part of the United States. The significance of the wall being put up to act as a fence and boundary between these two countries could not be termed as illegitimate. The border wall was being put up as a way to help solve the problem that was being experienced at this border. However, as we have seen, the building of this wall was going to have some negative effects on several other factors. Much as the wall was going to help cut down on these illegal activities going on across it, its back clash on the US economy, foreign relations, wildlife and even the human rights concerns was something that could not just be brushed aside. All facts taken into consideration therefore show that this wall was going to have an impact both negatively and positively.
According to research findings, it is clear that many of the Americans feel that the border wall should not have been put up in the first place. They feel that, instead of locking out those who are seeking a better life in the United States, the government should be welcoming them in a id to enhance peaceful co existence between each other. The answer to illegal immigrants does not lie in erecting the walls but rather in immigration reforms that will deal with the problem in a humane way. The environmentalists are another unhappy lot of people with the build up of this wall. The physical barriers are hindering the wildlife and are causing harm to them. The Department of Homeland Security by passed numerous environmental and land-management laws in order to build this wall. This has angered the conservation groups. Another downside of this project is the amount of money that is being pumped into it. This project consumes a lot of money in a bid to make it successful. The repairs being done every now and then cost millions of dollars and this is the tax payer’s money. This money could have been easily put to better use especially at a time when the US economy is in recession.
From the research above, we can conclude that the answer to the thesis statement “Should the US continue to build the US-Mexico border wall?” is no. As much as the United States-Mexico border wall has proved to be effective at some point, the effects that it bears are by far greater than the advantages it gives. This border wall has consumed a lot of money and is still continuing to do this. It is not being appropriate in the role it was initially meant to play. This is evidenced in the illegal activities that are still taking place at the border and the rising numbers of the illegal immigrants entering the US everyday.
A project may be put up with the best interests of the parties concerned. However, if it fails to live to its expectation, then there is no need to further put up with it. The building of the US-Mexico border wall commenced despite all the woes against it. Years down the line, the writing has become clear that it is not effective in what was its initial purpose. This project needs to be stopped and better ways of dealing with the problem be proposed as an option.
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