The Apprentice: Border Wall Edition

Photo by John Gibbins, staff photographer for the San Diego Union-Tribune

By: Savi Raghuraman | Writer   &   Lucy Terry | Writer

October 25, 2017

On Thursday, October 19, construction crews completed the last of eight border wall prototypes in the Otay Mesa area of San Diego after three weeks of construction. These structures stand ready for evaluation by the Department of Homeland Security and are part of the Trump administration’s latest effort to act on its controversial promise to build a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border.

Companies used a variety of strategies in competing for a construction contract with the government. Each design approaches 30 feet in height and costs up to $500,000 just for the prototype structure. While four of the eight consist of solid concrete, the rest include other materials, like steel, in pieces so the wall could be seen through by patrol officers. Construction companies also kept aesthetics in mind: most prototypes were shades of tan to match the surrounding desert landscape, although one had a blue trim. One even topped its design off with spikes, making it the most threatening and imposing of the group. Cost, looks, and functionality will all play a role in the government’s selection of one (or more than one) prototype.

Karina Repaire, junior at San Clemente High School, is skeptical about Trump’s plans to turn these prototypes into an actual wall. “Despite Trump’s wild estimations about the wall, he has recently conceded that it will be more of a fence than a wall. I think we can see that his original ‘great, great wall’ is not feasible and has to be downsized to a more moderate level,” she points out.

However, if the building of the wall does become reality, life on the border will certainly change. It has changed even now, during construction, as desperate immigrants use their limited time to enter the U.S. before the decades-old, 10-foot fences are replaced with sturdy concrete and steel three times as high. Several immigrants have been caught on the construction site itself during the past three weeks. Yet in the long-term, many believe that the wall isn’t necessary. The rates at which undocumented immigrants are caught are at their lowest in decades. Those who do cross are willing to go to almost any lengths to do so, and surrounding our country with a fortress may not stop them.

Throughout his campaign, President Trump promised that erecting this wall would “Make America Great Again,” and many believed him. His plans to stifle illegal immigration became popular with many conservatives, who now anticipate the final construction of this division between the United States and Mexico. However, the opposition has emphasized the downsides to building this wall. Relations with Mexico grew tense as President Trump made his way to the White House, but if the wall was to actually be built, there would be noticeable impacts. It would quickly hinder U.S. trade with Mexico, as the North American Free Trade Agreement is in danger of being dissolved; this act provides $584 billion worth of goods to cross the border, tariff-free. It would hurt Mexico’s economy drastically.

Not only does the wall come at an exorbitant cost (it would cost approximately $1.6 billion, and has yet to be approved by Congress), but it may even cause the loss of lives. The most determined immigrants would merely see the wall as another obstacle to cross by any means necessary. This would mean taking dangerous routes as an alternative to sneak in, such as crossing unforgiving and deadly deserts. Numerous studies illustrate an increase in immigrant deaths in response to an increase in U.S. presence and security at the border. In 2006, the Government Accountability Office reported that the amount of migrant deaths at the border doubled after our government increased border security. In 2013, University of Arizona reported similar results that proved there was a definitive, direct relationship between increased border security and migrant deaths.

Such a radical solution to this immigration issue could even stimulate organized crime. If migrants are discouraged by the wall, they may turn to smugglers to get them into the States. They would have to pay a lot of money, which would, in turn, support networks of organized crime and establish a secure practice of smuggling. Trump’s original idea of the wall is completely ludicrous and sends a message to the world that we are closed off and unwelcoming to immigrants, especially Mexican ones. This is not the message we need to be sending in this world climate,” remarks Karina Repaire.

Building the wall would have a large environmental impact as well. Traffic and the construction itself would damage countless species of flora and leave a plethora of trash and debris in its wake. Conservation scientists at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum have claimed that the wall would destroy and fragment the movement of animals, as well as their habitats.

And as if there weren’t enough downsides to the proposition of this wall, it may infringe on Native American land too. The Tohono O’odham reservation sits right on the border of Arizona. If the Trump administration were to go through with constructing the wall through this area, they would face ethical and legal consequences. Many in this community are unhappy just at the prospect of this wall, as it continues the long-time trend of disrespect towards Native American culture and freedoms.

Briana Mendoza, a sophomore at San Clemente High School, is less than pleased with the wall. “I have family in Mexico, and I go every two years. I think that the wall will create a lot of problems because now there will be a huge division not only dividing land, but dividing families.”

With all of these potentially disastrous effects, it is evident to many Americans that Trump’s plan for increased border security is more trouble than it’s worth. And in the long run, it may not even fulfill its purpose. As Marc Pierini, a former European Union ambassador to Turkey, believes, “A wall can slow someone down. It can compel them to change the route they take. But when people want to cross, whatever the motivation is, they will find a way to cross.”

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