Op-Ed: More than just a wall

Tuesday, March 6, 2018 - 4:53pm

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“Borders are an obstacle to unity, to humanity really,” Chico MacMurtrie exclaimed during his presentation of his Border Crosser robots. Do borders just continue to reinforce a tendency toward isolationism and separate us from one another? Borders might isolate us from a true immersion into multiculturalism, but what poses a real obstacle to humanity is a wall, a fortification of a nation.

A strong push for a border separating Mexico and the United States once more moves into the spotlight with President Trump’s proposal on the DACA debate that he would grant citizenship to the 1.8 million immigrants in exchange for $25 billion in funding for his border.

The "security" of a wall was one of his campaign promises, but the thing with walls is they merely function as a filter. It deters those who seek a better life for themselves and their family, but not those adversaries who pose a threat to the nation, as they will find a way to circumvent a wall. As Jack Anderson said, “Security cannot depend on the hope that a fortification will not fail. Eventually, and always, walls fail us.”

Walls are a failed concept as they only offer a temporary relief to a problem that lies much deeper and needs to be addressed with policy reforms instead of physical separation. Walls are not permanent solutions, as evidenced by those that have been erected in the past. As Cicero decried, seeking justification in past practices is flawed in the most basic sense that not everything found in law is just, even if measured against history. The logic to keep "others" out once before led the U.S. to protect its nationhood and sovereignty on the basis of prejudicial exclusion with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. What is most damaging about this type of approach to immigration control is the delay it causes to sustainable immigration reform.

It is time to rethink the way we view borders. A wall will not instill unity, but rather perpetuate a divide, especially if it is brought about by coercion or somehow forcing Mexico to pay for it. International treaties or agreements signed under threats or coercion are not only invalid, as stated by Article 52 of the Vienna Convention, but can also reproduce neo-imperial relations that will only strain alliances among the global community. While borders should certainly exist as jurisdictional measures, a wall will form a barrier to human movement and all under the excuse of protecting one’s sovereignty.

There are additional consequences to be considered when building a wall such as the caging effect, a positive correlation between increased border enforcement and unauthorized migrants settling permanently instead of traveling back and forth in fear of apprehension. By dividing geographical space, we inherently separate what makes us human: a sense of community and togetherness. Regulation is warranted, but by falling back on the idea of imposing a barrier between you and the enemy we continue to feed into a flawed way of thinking.

Some might look at "them," the Mexicans, as the threat, but maybe one day, future generations will look back at this moment in time and look at the ones erecting walls as a threat to unity and what it means to be part of a community, a global community.

Rebecca Schaenzel is an LSA junior.