Bottomline: We already have a wall which has been built and maintained by both parties for decades. So while symbolically this is all very important and deeply American, the actual details of the fight over the wall are a little ?.
We Already Have a Great Big Wall
There is already a “wall” between the U.S. and Mexico. The Mexico-United States Barrier is a series of walls and fences that covers over 1/3rd of the U.S. / Mexico border.
NOTES: As of May 2011, DHS reported completing 649 miles of fencing (99.5% of the 652 miles planned). That is “over 1/3rd” of our roughly 2,000 mile border. Check out an interactive map of the U.S.-Mexico border.
The “wall” (a series tactically placed walls connected by vehicle barriers and pedestrian fencing) was mostly created since the 1990s. However, it was expanded by the Secure Fences Act of 2006, and was continued up into the Obama years.
In other words, although the wall is generally a Republican-favored projected created from Republican-backed legislation, the building of the border wall happened under Clinton, both Bushs, and Obama, happened under both Democratic party and Republican party controlled congresses, and happened with the support of both parties as part of comprehensive immigration reform.
Currently nearly all of the “wall” planned under the Secure Fences Act has been erected, although the Republican party has taken issue with some of the specific fencing used (they wanted more “double-fencing,” that is fencing that protects from vehicles and pedestrians).
My limited research shows the wall generally works to funnel immigrants crossing the border through the proper channels, thus contributing to the ongoing reduction of apprehensions for illegal crossings, but is costly to maintain.
In other words, we already have a wall, and it generally “works” like supporters say, but also it is arguably not the most cost effective means of ensuring border security and is costly to maintain, like critics say.
Meanwhile, since we already have a “wall,” we constantly need to fund it… because although we don’t have to build more barriers in theory, we do logically have to maintain the existing structure.
The above may lead you to ask, “well then, why are Trump supporters and Democrats freaking out over a wall?”
The simple answer is: Republicans want a more robust wall and the Democrats want to focus on other border security measures.
For a more detailed answer, I have to switch into opinion mode.
Before moving onto opinions, first check out the quote and video to help flesh out the fact part of this page.
Life in the Shadow of US-Mexico border Wall – BBC News. Many might be surprised to know, we already have a wall.
The barrier is not one contiguous structure, but a grouping of relatively short physical walls, secured in between with a “virtual fence” which includes a system of sensors and cameras monitored by the United States Border Patrol. As of January 2009, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported that it had more than 580 miles (930 km) of barriers in place. The total length of the continental border is 1,989 miles (3,201 km). <—- it was expanded further from 2009 – 2011 under the Obama administration.
Opinions on The Wall Being About More Than a Wall
The answer to the question “why are we fighting over a wall if we already have a wall created by bi-partisan legislation” is somewhat simple:
- Trump made “building a big beautiful wall” a major part of his political campaign. It was a rallying cry. It was central to his campaign. He has been promising it for years now. He might not get Mexico to pay for it, but he at least needs to deliver a wall… even if that means making a deal with Democrats…. that said, Trump and the Republicans are very focused on increasing the wall beyond what was defined in the Fences Act.
- The Democrats made stopping Trump’s wall a major part of their campaign. They have been promising to stand against it for years. They need to deliver. They in the past have offered money for the wall, but in return they want DACA…. That said, Democrats don’t want to add wall, they want to focus on other aspect of border security.
This has turned a mundane issue, “provide funding for existing fencing and making additions over time,” into an emblem of the battle between the political parties.
This this standoff both sides need to get something to bring back to their base to say “here, we won.”
One could say it is an emblem of just immigration, but to some degree, it is really much more than that.
“The Wall” is a symbol of pro-immigrant vs. anti-immigrant, security vs. open borders, nationalism vs. globalism, left vs. right, PC vs. traditional values, the old ways vs. the new, etc.
In other words, and in many ways, Trump turned “the Wall” into a symbol of everything 2016 – 2018 was about.
The parties aren’t fighting over whether or not we build a wall, they are fighting over funding for additional fencing and walls as a symbol of left-wing vs. right-wing values in America.
In other words, while it is true that Trump wants to add to the wall making it bigger and taller, and Democrats want to focus on other measures of border security and promote policies like DACA, the actual difference between the two parties on border security, rhetoric aside, is not as notable as one might think…. and anyways, we already have a wall, so the talking points about wall vs. no wall are essentially just talking points.
Let’s end with some prophetic words from the man who oversaw the last two years of the existing wall being built, Barack Obama (from his speech on comprehensive immigration reform):
“We have gone above and beyond what was requested by the very Republicans who said they supported broader reform as long as we got serious about enforcement,” Obama said. “All the stuff they asked for, we’ve done. But even though we’ve answered these concerns, I’ve got to say I suspect there are still going to be some who are trying to move the goal posts on us one more time.” “They’ll want want a higher fence,” Obama said. “Maybe they’ll need a moat. Maybe they want alligators in the moat. They’ll never be satisfied. And I understand that. That’s politics.”
FACT: Part of the problem on both sides is the rhetoric. Republicans had actually initially requested more robust fencing (for example double-layer fencing that would stop both pedestrians and vehicles). However, the Obama administration went with a mix of pedestrian and vehicle barriers and only a small portion of double fencing. So, while he was correct in saying “Republicans would come back and want more”… he wasn’t fully genuine in saying they went above and beyond. Then of course when Trump called for his wall, he framed it as if there never was a wall and Obama had done nothing… Which itself wasn’t true. And then of course when Democrats countered Trump, they acted as if they had always opposed a wall of any sort. Yet, at the end of the day, both sides did agree to the existing wall as part of compressive immigration reform. Still, as Obama says, “They’ll never be satisfied. And I understand that. That’s politics.”