Border Wall and Paralysis of the United States Government

During the campaign, on Twitter, in the Oval Office, and now in Congress, the proposal of a border wall with Mexico frequently becomes a trending topic. Financing for the construction, however, seems to be more of a pipe dream, since the Mexican government rejects President Trump’s insistence that Mexico pay for the wall, and the budget resolution that Congress approved this April doesn’t include funding for its construction. Even in the federal budget proposal, the allocation to the Department of Homeland Security to begin construction of the wall was limited to $1.6 billion, well below the $21 billion needed to complete the project in 2020.

The wall is not only a terrible idea but a bad investment. In the first place, the main source of undocumented immigrants residing in the United States is those with expired visas, which is in contrast to what Trump and his followers would have us believe: that people cross the border in the dark of night without surveillance. The second argument cited frequently for defending the construction of the wall is that it will stem the flow of drugs and prevent terrorists from entering the country. But not even this argument passes the test. The cartels have demonstrated with each action that they are increasingly intelligent and creative in the way they send their products through tunnels, submarines, catapults, trucks and using El Chapo logistics. In the end, a wall will not stop them. And of course, there is no evidence that shows the entry of a single terrorist into the U.S. at the border between the United States and Mexico, thus, having a wall solves a problem that doesn’t exist.

It is precisely for this reason that members of Congress who represent people in the border states, who actually live and understand the dimension of the problem, like Texas Republican Rep. Will Hurd, roundly refuse to support the idea.

The idea is also not popular. As of April 2017, 64 percent of the American electorate opposed construction of the wall. The opposition now reflects both sides of Congress, so the idea of publicly funding the wall is undertaken with greater secrecy. The bidding process itself to decide on the prototype and construction of the wall has been chaotic. According to a recent report, the Department of Homeland Security selected two finalists and closed the bidding, but even they are not sure the project will begin this year.

But none of this has stopped a handful of Congressmen, fervent in the cause of the wall, (and, yes, all men) from threatening to take the government hostage at the cost of a rather costly and impractical idea with little popularity. The administration and some representatives have threatened the shutdown of the government in light of Congressional refusal to fund Trump’s campaign promise.

If the government is paralyzed thanks to a fruitless discussion about the wall, Trump and the majority Republican Congress will get all the blame for suspending federal government activity, from access to national parks, to the issuance of passports, to daily social services. And who’s to say what the effect will be on international relations, the reduction of diplomatic personnel and the economic loss of restricting tourism and fees collected by federal services?

A shutdown of the government would also delay the fulfillment of Trump’s other campaign promise: the renegotiation of the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada. By suspending activities in September and October, with negotiations barely having begun, the speed and tone of the conversations will suffer serious change. Does the U.S. really expect Mexico to make significant concessions to its demands for fairer trade when its government suspends activities for a wall?

While the immigration debate has taken a negative turn in the United States – a turn which is hard to reverse – another of the more offensive and costly demonstrations by the U.S. crosses a critical point. Will Trump and his supporters in Congress really be willing to paralyze an entire government to get a wall? We’ll keep you posted.

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