by CJ Bartolozzi '20
Immigration has posed a complicated question to members on both sides of the aisle in American politics for quite some time. Currently, a combination of scarcely scattered chain-link fences, broken down fortifications, and natural barriers make up the roughly 2,000-mile border that separates the United States from Mexico. Discussions about the southern border surface many questions concerning illegal immigration, cost-effective border security, protection of Americans and refugees. However, all of these issues can get quite confusing with facts, victims, and public figures directing opinions every which way. Currently, Congress and the White House are debating the validity and necessity of enhanced border security in the form of better equipment, more border agents, and the possibility of a physical see-through barrier or a traditional wall. Much is unclear about what the southern border will look like by the end of the year, but it is important to try to understand the arguments on both sides in order to make a clear and informed decision.
The issue of increased security on the southern border is a complicated one, further compounded by the politicized nature of current politics. According to the Department of Homeland Security with reference to enhanced border protection,
“We are building the first new border wall in a decade. Walls Work. For example, when we installed a border wall in the Yuma Sector, we have seen border apprehensions decrease by 90 percent.”
The DHS refers to a traditional wall opposed to a see-through barrier. The Office of Management and Budget estimates that a “traditional wall” would cost around 24.4 million dollars per mile, substantially more expensive than a see-through barrier.
A segment of the southern border before and after the implementation of a see-through barrier.
The Department of Homeland Security has created new see-through barriers to control immigration. According to the DHS,
“A violent mob of 1,000 people stormed our Southern border, we found the newly constructed portions of the wall to be very effective. In the area of the breach, a group of people tore a hole in the old landing mat fence constructed decades ago and pushed across the border. That evening, the fence was repaired. There were no breaches along the newly constructed border wall areas.”
The breach occurred in a section of “old landing mat fence constructed decades ago” while the “newly constructed portions” allowed “no breaches.” This information demonstrates the effectiveness of new see-through barrier compared to a traditional wall.
The Cato Institute, a Libertarian think tank, countered the argument presented by the Department of Homeland Security claiming that
“the biggest practical problem with a wall is its opacity. In fact, many Border Patrol agents oppose a concrete wall for precisely this reason ‘A cinder block or rock wall, in the traditional sense, isn’t necessarily the most effective or desirable choice,’ Border Patrol agents told Fox News. ‘Seeing through a fence allows agents to anticipate and mobilize, prior to illegal immigrants actually climbing or cutting through the fence.”
A see-through barrier offers the same physical barrier that a traditional wall offers while allowing the border patrol agents to observe any potential threats through the see-through portions.
The question boils down for most citizens on either wall or no wall, most people according to Gallup Polls are in support of enhanced border security. Forty-three percent of people surveyed view enhanced border security as “extremely important,” and thirty-four percent, as “very important.” Forty-one percent of people surveyed favor the wall, while fifty-seven percent oppose it. Border security is vital, but it is important to determine an efficient form of enhanced border security, agreeable to both border specialists and the public. Seeing that the majority of Americans oppose a wall, yet barriers seem more cost-effective per mile and are supported by border patrol agents, I believe a see-through barrier is the best form of border security as it appeals to calls for a physical border while addressing the issue of efficacy and affordability.