Things That Matter

Why “The Wall” Became Such A Lightning Rod For The Right And How Trump Capitalized On Its Complicated History

We all know that Trump 2016 campaign rested heavily on a promise to build “The Wall” that would keep Mexico’s “rapists” and “bad hombres” out of the United States. The premise of a wall along the southern border is meant to represent national security.

While we don’t need to explain the consequences of scapegoating a race, religion or nationality in world history (read: The Holocaust, mass genocide, and now child concentration camps), the United States has a unique history of political campaigning for “The Wall.”

We already have ongoing construction to impede access from Mexico into the United States.

@Breaking911 / Twitter

The United States has already spend perhaps billions of dollars on building a defensive wall along the border. We don’t have “open borders” and Democrats are not calling for “open borders,” as the GOP loves to exclaim.

“The Wall” was born during World War I.

@DurhamGala / Twitter

At the time, the U.S.’s agricultural industry was hopeful for immigrants to come to the U.S. to work in their fields. That economical need made it so that there were no restrictions on Mexican immigration. The vigilante border patrol group at the time was mostly targeting Chinese immigrants.

Congress created the U.S. Border Patrol in 1924.

@CBP / Twitter

With that agency in its infancy, Congress was then able to begin funding its purpose, one of which was to build a wall. Tin walls and standard fences were built, and neglected. Kelly Lytle Hernandez is a UCLA professor and author of “Migra!: A History of the U.S. Border Patrol.” In her book, she said that, “As the walls got higher, the tunnels got deeper.”

“The walls served as psychological solutions that didn’t work,” Hernandez writes.

@TheWhiteHouse / Twitter

President Richard Nixon rallied the call for The Wall greater than any President before him.At the time, The Wall wasn’t a symbol for keeping scary brown people out. It was meant to help stop the flow of illegal drugs into the U.S. from the cartel.

NAFTA hurt Mexico’s agricultural economy in the 1990s, prompting the Great Migration.

@karinapalomoo / Twitter

Millions of migrants started entering a United States with new immigration restrictions for more agricultural opportunities. The border fences that were erected in response were only in high population areas like San Diego and El Paso. Those new walls prompted migrants to risk their lives by crossing Arizona desert.

Senators Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer all voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, signed by President George W. Bush.

@CBP / Twitter

That said, at the time, Republicans were trying to push a bill that would automatically make every undocumented immigrant a felon. The fence itself is what we see at the border today, spanning 700 miles of the 2,000 border. The GOP tried to gaslight Democrats by accusing the party as inconsistent. Today, Democrats think Trump’s wall is over-the-top and far too expensive to be worthwhile. During Trump’s campaign, he criticized the 2006 fence as “such a little wall, it was such a nothing wall.”

In 2011, President Obama declared that metaphorical Wall as “now basically complete.”

@disavowtrump2020 / Twitter

The GOP contested this, given that half the border is incomplete, though the vast majority of it are natural barriers like mountains and deserts.

“There are always planes,” says Hernandez.

@CBPMarkMorgan / Twitter
“There will always be other ways to get across,” she says. Democrats as a whole oppose Trump’s proposed border wall because they know it isn’t the solution. Throwing $12 billion U.S. taxpayer’s dollars at a concrete wall does not prevent tunnels. It does not resolve the problems in migrants’ countries of origins that force them to flee. It will just cost lives.

Conclusion: “The Wall” is a psychological barrier, not a solution.

@thehill / Twitter
That psychological barrier doesn’t block resilient, creative and desperate migrants. It’s an opioid for Trump’s masses. It may help those Americans feel safer, but it is not effective. Those billions of dollars could be used on education, on free health care, on, I don’t know, giving detained children toothpaste and soap. Better yet, that money could be spent on hiring more immigration court judges instead of allowing privatized detention facilities to house immigrants on America’s dime.
Of all the solutions, The Wall ain’t one.

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