President Donald Trump wants to build an $18 billion 'bridge to nowhere' and American taxpayers as well as many Republican leaders are cheering him for it.
The border wall which will not be paid by Mexico, as Trump promised during the campaign, does nothing to solve the root causes of our immigration crisis or the status of 11 million undocumented individuals living in the United States. It does however, help perpetuate a never-ending spending cycle on border enforcement.
Efforts to secure the border can’t be grounded in catchy rhetoric and the simplistic assumption that expanding security at "the line," will keep the country safer. Without the right data, it’s almost impossible to determine how secure the border is and what measures are most effective in achieving that goal. Trump’s immigration plan calls for securing the border by increasing enforcement yet again, so it is well worth asking whether the proposal on the table will have any impact on our collective well-being.
Over the last decade over some $100 billion dollars have been spent trying to stop the flow of undocumented immigrants, mainly through the Southwest portion of the border. On the other hand, migrant deaths have steadily increased since the mid 1990's while human trafficking organizations, mostly run by Mexican drug cartels, have seen a boom in business. Despite this, politicians like Trump and his allies continue to equate more spending with greater security.
Rather than viewing enforcement as part of a broader strategy, it has become the only strategy and instead of focusing more resources on mitigating the root causes of immigration, we have spent decades trying stop immigrants once they show up at the door.
To move forward with a real, comprehensive solution, the public needs to recognize that the largest factor driving immigrants into the United States is not a weak, unprotected border. Overall, unauthorized crossings have been dropping steadily since 2007. Last year, the number of people arrested along the US-Mexico border dropped to a 49-year low, according to the Washington Post, in significant part because of better economic conditions in Mexico and the downturn of the U.S. economy, rather than border militarization.
Most undocumented immigrants now come from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, not Mexico. This includes an increasing number of women and children, who cross the border to survive the violence they face back home. Violence fueled in part by drug consumption in America and its so-called war on drugs. These are refugees who are leaving behind their homes to embark on a deadly journey out of necessity, not opportunity.
Militarizing the border is something enemies would do, not friends and strategic partners. Immigration is an economic issue and it won't be solved by having more armed guards at the front door. A two-thousand-mile wall won't seal the border, it will suffocate it.
So, while Trump presents himself as a gamechanger, he’s only advocating for more of the same failed policies of the past. Trump knows this well, but he also understands the electoral value the wall has. There lies his obsession with building this bridge to nowhere, not in the security of everyday Americans who, make no mistake, will end up paying for it and getting little or nothing in return.
(The phrase 'bridge to nowhere' was originally coined in 2005 to refer to the Gravina Access Project, proposed congressional funding for a bridge in Alaska to replace a ferry between the town of Ketchikan and Gravina Island, the location of a local airport and a handful of residents. The bridge was never built after the project was attacked as a awaste of tax payers' money.)