After months of campaign promises threatening to tighten borders against Mexico, President Donald Trump finally announced plans to begin construction on a border wall, in conjunction with plans to boost deportations of undocumented immigrants. Moreover, Trump doubled down on his initial promise to force Mexico to pay for this wall — a proposition immediately shot down by President of Mexico Pena Nieto, who also subsequently cancelled a planned meeting with President Trump. This plan by the new administration is dangerous, expensive, unnecessary and fundamentally delusional, continuing a dark American tradition of marginalizing immigrant communities.
President Trump, by following up on his anti-immigrant rhetoric with anti-immigrant executive orders, is furthering a vision of America which is rooted in a white nationalist idea of America. In tandem with the announcement on the construction of a wall, President Trump also announced that the United States will completely halt taking in refugees from Muslim-majority countries. By attempting to wall out minorities coming into the United States, this administration is creating a dangerously hostile environment for minorities to exist and thrive.
Historically, there are numerous examples of the American government using immigration policy to criminalize communities on racial lines. Similar anti-immigrant policies used against other communities were specific expressions of racism, and created a legal architecture permissive of violence and racism against these communities. For example, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1883 led to widespread persecution against Chinese immigrants in California, and limited the overall movement of Chinese people into the United States.
Furthermore, the sheer massive scale of this wall is daunting, and brings forth critical questions of budgeting and state cooperation: The wall is estimated to be around 1,600 kilometers long, and would stretch from San Diego to El Paso. A wall of this scale is realistically unnecessary due to the fact that this stretch of border already has about 1,000 kilometers worth of fencing and natural borders, which make it an immense threat to cross.
Moreover, the Trump administration’s plan to force Mexico to pay for it is muddled and unclear. White House aides announced that the administration is planning on placing a 20 percent tax on imports from Mexico, which will provide funding for construction — exactly how much funding this will generate is unclear, but taxpayer money outside of the import tax will be required. For a government which is planning on cutting taxes, dissolving funding for the National Endowments of the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities, this unnecessary wall is fiscally irresponsible, especially considering the fact that there is already 1,000 kilometers of fencing alongside the border.
The administration’s planned construction of a sprawling border wall is a sprawling mess which threatens the very inclusivity that the American ideal rests on. This plan, which is jingoistic and myopic, is unnecessary and will effect an ugly tendency of marginalizing American communities. Trump’s plan will enshrine an ugly period of racism, and end up as a monument to an ugly portion of American history.