It’s Not an Immigrant Tsunami We Should Fear, It’s a Climate Change One
With the signing of an executive order Wednesday, President Trump has begun to make good on his campaign promise to build a “big beautiful wall” along the as yet unwalled parts of the border with Mexico. But this epic project, which could cost as much as $25 billion according to some reports, is being put in the wrong location and, in any case, will be a complete waste of money anyhow in terms of deterring illegal immigration.
As the Manchus famously proved in the case of China’s laughably ineffective Great Wall, a wall, while perhaps a great tourist attraction, is only as strong as the people behind it. After multiple successful raids across the wall, a Manchu army poured through a fortified gate, not by breaking it down but by convincing and bribing a rebel Ming warlord to open it for them so they could march on Beijing and finish off the Ming dynasty, establishing the Qing dynasty that lasted until the early 20th Century).
Already, some 580 miles of the 2000-mile border between Mexico and the US is fenced off, either with actual walls of various types from razor-wire-topped fences to fancier iron-grated structures, or by “virtual walls” of motion sensors and cameras. But despite these fences, desperate immigrants still cross at about the pre-fence rate, either by tunneling, climbing or making a dash and hoping not to get caught before they can reach some urban center and melt into the crowd. There’s no reason to suspect that completing the wall across the whole of what used to be proudly called one of the world’s longest unguarded borders, would stop the flow of people seeking a better life for themselves and their families. Some will attempt to climb it risking death or serious injury. Others will burrow under it. Most, or course, as now, will just come to the US legally on visitor visas and then just stay on, working, building a life, and hoping not to get caught and deported.
Clearly, spending what could end up being as much as the entire budget of the State Department, Energy Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development or two Departments of Interior to build a wall that will not work seems like a really dumb idea. But it’s actually much worse than that.