Widespread immigration is one of the defining characteristics of the modern world. While immigrants have a variety of destination countries, the US has been the choice destination for millions of people from all over the world. Due to the restrictions imposed by the Federal government to curb the number of immigrants, many of them have opted to enter and stay in the country illegally.
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The US has therefore had to house about 12 million illegal immigrants with thousands more making their way into the country each year (Martinez and Hardwick 52). Illegal immigrants enter the US though various routes and they come from different countries. However, the US-Mexico border stands apart as the most important channel for illegal immigrant flow into the country. Most efforts by the Federal government to deal with illegal immigrants therefore focus on the US-Mexico border.
Proposals have been made for a great wall to be constructed between the two countries. Limited implementations of the proposal have been carried out with mixed opinions from supporters and detractors of the project. This paper argues that a great wall of America between Mexico and the US is the most effective way for the government to deal with the problem of illegal immigrants from Mexico.
Support for the Wall
A great wall of America would give US agents greater control over the border. This would effectively mitigate and even eliminate the problem of illegal entry into the US from Mexico. Traditionally, the US had deployed Border Patrol agents in the routes commonly used by immigrants.
However, this method has been compromised by changing immigration trends by the illegal entrants. Due to the increased surveillance at the typical ports of entry between the two nations, illegal border traffic has moved to areas where Border Patrol agents do not patrol frequently. As such, the strategy of increasing Border Patrol agents in the urban routes traditionally used by illegal immigrants has failed to curb the inflow of illegal immigrants.
The great wall would overcome this limitation by covering areas where human agents cannot patrol efficiently. The Government Accountability Office reveals that a wall enhances the ability of Border Patrol agents to respond to incidents of illegal entry attempts at any point on the border (1).An analysis of the effect of the border fence constructed in San Diego County demonstrates that this strategy is effective.
Following an initiative to build a wall starting in 1996, illegal immigration in the region has decreased by 90% (Karaim 761). This demonstrates that constructing a border wall would be the most effective method of preventing illegal immigration.
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With a wall in place, the only option available to immigrations would be the legal ports of entry, which are regulated by US Border Patrol agents. It can therefore be argued that a great wall between the two countries would provide the US with operational control over the border mitigating illegal immigrant flow from Mexico.
Another argument in support of a great wall is that this strategy would greatly reduce the cost of border control. The cost of border control has been rising significantly as the US authorities attempt to curb the flow of illegal immigrants. While border control should be the responsibility of the nations sharing the common border, the US has had to shoulder this responsibility alone with little support from the Mexican government.
This has caused a strain on the available US border resources. Haddal documents that the US Border Patrol (USBP) has been asking for increased funding to carry out its duties (1). These funds are necessitated by the need to increase patrols along the border and therefore increase security. As of 2010, the USBP needed $400 million to engage in activities such as the hiring of new agents, implement unmanned aerial detection systems, and employ canine teams (Haddal 1).
The costs of implementing border security are expected to go even higher as the government demands greater control over the flow of immigrants across the US-Mexico border. The great wall would greatly reduce the cost of achieving border security. With the help of this infrastructure, the USBP would not need many agents to patrol the border physically. The wall would therefore enable the US to reduce the cost of securing its border with Mexico.
A great wall would have a great deterrence effect on illegal immigrants. Currently, arrest by Border Patrol Agents is the primary means of preventing illegal entry into the US (Haddal 3). This method has proved ineffective in discouraging Mexicans from making their way across the border. In spite of the risk of being caught by patrolling agents, immigrants attempt to enter the US through unauthorized entry points each day.
For many immigrants, the risk of being caught is outweighed by the possibility of a prosperous future in the US if they make it across. In any case, the US authorities only arrest the illegal immigrants and deport them to Mexico. This creates a low deterrence effect for most aspiring immigrants. A great wall would make it impossible for immigrants to successfully get into the US.
This would have the greatest deterrence effect and effectively prevent people from attempting to cross into the US illegally. Yule, Haddal and Garcia document that the erection of fences between the US and Mexico has been an effective “prevention through deterrence” strategy (1). Since immigrants are physically unable to scale the wall, they cannot enter the US. This high deterrence effect is desirable in the fight against illegal immigration from Mexico.
Arguments Against a Great Wall and Counterarguments
Opponents of the great wall argue that it would be too costly for the American taxpayer. This argument is valid since the border between the two countries is vast, covering about 2000 miles (Karaim 746). Considering that each mile costs $4million to construct, the total cost of a border fence would be great.
Opponents declare that these expenses are an unjustifiable use of taxpayer money. While the initial cost of the construction of a great wall seems prohibitively high, this expense is justifiable in the end. The wall is intended to stop illegal immigrants who include elements that present a great danger to America’s security.
The wall plays a vital role in preventing smugglers and even terrorists from entering into the US. Research by Karaim documents that a wall would stop Mexican drug-cartels that currently use the largely unprotected land corridor to smuggle drugs (761). The high cost of the fence is therefore a small price to pay considering the risk that illegal immigrants pose to the United States.
Another argument made against the fence is that it would destroy community relationships between border towns. A commonly ignored fact when discussing the immigration issue is that strong relationships exist between Americans and Mexicans living in border towns. Martinez and Hardwick declare that the border fence is “destroying community relationships and establishing a separation between cities like Eagle Pass and Piedras Negras” (51).
The wall has not only created a physical barrier between the two countries but also a mental one. By reinforcing the separation between the two countries, the border fence promotes racism. Opponents of the construction of a great wall state that the destruction of community life caused by this structure is unjustifiable.
It is true that the physical wall between the US and Mexico creates a barrier between border towns. This can disrupt the relationship between border towns. However, the disruption is only caused to illegal immigrants since there are still numerous official entry points between the two nations. Communities can make use of these points to continue relating with their neighbors from the other country.
This paper set out to argue in favor of the construction of a Great Wall of America between Mexico and the US. It began by highlighting the dire illegal immigrants’ issue currently facing the US and the need for a solution. The paper has discussed some of the advantages of a wall between the two nations.
These advantages include greater border control, reduced cost of surveillance, and high deterrence. Admittedly, a great wall of America is an extreme measure and its construction has led to condemnation from people who feel that it is disrupting community life in border towns. However, the US faces an extreme problem of illegal immigrant and this justifies the use of extreme measures to tackle the problem.
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Government Accountability Office. Secure Border Initiative Fence Construction Costs. Washington: GAO Press, 2009. Print.
Haddal, Chad. Border Security: The Role of the U.S. Border Patrol. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 2010. Print.
Karaim, Reed. “America’s Border Fence.” CQ Researcher 18.32(2008): 747-765.
Martinez, Adriana and Susan Hardwick. “Building Fences: Undocumented Immigration and Identity in a Small Border Town.” Focus on Geography 52.4 (2009): 48-55.
Yule, Kim, Chad Haddal and Michael Garcia. Border Security: Barriers Along the U.S. International Border. Washington: Congressional Research Service, 2009. Print.