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Why 200 Miles of Border Wall Matters

By Brian Lonergan

You may have missed the news that President Trump did a victory tour of more than 200 miles of newly constructed border wall in Arizona last week. With no shortage of tumult in the country at the moment, the story got scant attention. Chalk it up as another example of media bias by omission, but the construction of the border wall is more consequential than its opponents will ever admit. 


To be fair, there was some coverage of the President’s tour, and it came with the predictable negative slant. Trump made a “renewed anti-immigrant appeal,” the New York Times railed, “bragging about the progress his administration has made” in building the wall.  


There is nothing “anti-immigrant” about a border wall. Before coronavirus, our government was admitting legal immigrants into the country on a daily basis, and that will resume at some point in the future. It is more accurate that a border wall is “anti-illegal immigrant,” and there’s nothing wrong with that. An America with a controlled, orderly legal process for admitting immigrants is a safe, prosperous nation for everyone. An America that tolerates widespread violations of our immigration laws is a dangerous place where foreign nationals are exploited as modern-day serfs. The middle class is in rapid decline, and society is polarized into the wealthy elites and the servant class that mows their lawns and cleans their mansions. Unless you’re among the wealthy elites, who wants to live in a country like that? 


Critics of the wall have argued that it is cruel to “slam the door” on those seeking a better life. Take away the politically-charged emotionalism and one can see the fraudulence of that charge. What is cruel is to entice impoverished people to make an incredibly dangerous journey with the lure of easy access into America that turns out to be false. Along the way, girls are subjected to sexual assault and children are forced to pose as the children of adults they are not related to in order to exploit our laws. Those children are often recycled back to Latin America by cartels to enable other adults to get across the border, after the aspiring immigrant pays an exorbitant fee to the cartels. 


In addition to being exploited, those seeking entry are putting their lives at risk. Low estimates from the Border Patrol between 2000 to 2014 put deaths attributed to unlawful border crossing at over 6,000, and that’s just along the border. Without plugging the gaps abused by migrant-smugglers, migrants will keep on coming, and so will the deaths. Some may see the wall as a closed door, but the reality is that it saves lives.    


For all the scorn directed at it, a wall saves lives on both sides of the border. Heroin and opioids are primarily sourced from Mexico, and their toll on Americans has been devastating. In 2014 alone, 47,000 Americans died from drug overdoses, including 21,000 deaths from opioids (like fentanyl) and 10,000 from heroin.    


This is a problem that is rapidly worsening. In 2016, 64,000 Americans died from opioids, more than the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. In the same year, opioids became the leading cause of death for men under 50, and analysts found that because of the extent of the crisis, the average life expectancy of the country actually experienced a decline. A fortified border wall presents a significant obstacle to those who traffic these deadly imports into our country. How many lives might be saved by keeping that poison out of our communities? 


These facts are lost on critics of the wall, who offer up myriad specious arguments. “Walls don’t work,” they say. Based on the recommendations of our immigration enforcement professionals and the documented results in countries like Israel, India, and Turkey, physical barriers are a very effective way to restrict the flow of those seeking to enter a country illegally. So “walls don’t work” isn’t really a cogent argument against a border wall, it’s a bumper sticker that is demonstrably false. 


Another attack is that a contiguous wall from San Diego to Brownsville would be utterly impractical. President Trump has long said that due to the presence of natural geographic barriers, a continuous wall is not necessary and is not the goal. While we have a strong law enforcement presence at the border, agents cannot patrol every mile. It is in those gaps where an imposing physical wall, and not a “virtual wall,” can be very effective. 


Two hundred miles of border wall is not the destination, but it is significant progress given the ferocious opposition that has been thrown at it. Those trying to obstruct President Trump’s efforts at the border have yet to put forth a serious alternative that would keep America safe and preserve our national sovereignty. Weakness and open borders are not the answer. Strength and security are the only responsible way forward.  


Brian Lonergan is director of communications at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of mass migration.


Also published at: Brian Lonergan, Why 200 Miles of Border Wall Matters, Townhall, June 29, 2020.

IRLI is a supporting organization of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

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