I was born in Costa Rica, but have lived in the United States for 21 years now — I consider it my home. Having said that, my parents never allowed me to forget where I come from and made sure I was still immersed in my culture. This gives me a unique perspective on the immigration issue.
I have seen and heard ghastly and tragic stories of people risking everything to try and make it into this country for a better life. But I have also seen cases in which immigrants do things that, as a taxpayer, I find wrong and help me understand why many Americans view immigrants negatively and want them kept out. However, I also believe there is a better way to deal with these issues than just building a wall.
President Donald Trump’s most memorable campaign promise, building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, has proven to be very strenuous for him to keep.
Having just endured the longest government shutdown in the country’s history, the president remains determined to get funds for this absurd, massive project that won’t help with the problem of illegal immigration as much as he and his base would think.
A wall will not stop the influx of undocumented immigrants coming into the country. In fact, visa overstays have significantly exceeded illegal border crossings during each of the last seven years, according to the Center for Migration Studies. The wall will not stop human trafficking either, because included in those visa overstays are victims of human trafficking.
It will also be ineffective to deter the flow of drugs since most of the drugs are smuggled in vehicles coming legally through U.S. ports of entry. The 2016 Drug Enforcement Administration report states how illegal drugs are smuggled in vehicles or blended with goods in tractor trailers.
The wall will be more expensive than its proponents estimate. President Trump initially claimed the wall will cost between $15 billion and $20 billion, but the libertarian think tank Cato Institute estimates it will cost around $25 billion. Fox News itself reports that U.S. taxpayers would “foot the bill.”
There are also legal obstacles that will have to be overcome to build the wall. The land on the border doesn’t only belong to the federal government, so it would need to be bought or seized through the unpopular tactic of eminent domain. Part of the land where the wall would be built is also owned by Native American tribes and private individuals who control much of the borderland property. Most of the existing border fence is located in California, Arizona and New Mexico, since private parties own a large majority of the border in Texas.
Besides all the aforementioned problems with the wall, the real problem is the symbolism behind it. The idea that people that are foreign or not “American” aren’t welcome enables disgusting treatment from xenophobic, racist, white nationalists to people that, for the most part, are innocent and have had nothing to do with the crimes that plague America. Less than 4 percent of the total prison population are not U.S. citizens, according to a report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Despite this, Arizona economist John R. Lott reports that undocumented immigrants in Arizona are 142 percent more likely to be convicted of a crime.
The United States is not the same place it was when I came here. So much has changed, especially the attitude toward immigrants. When I came to this country, being an immigrant was something to be proud of. It takes hard work and sacrifice to start a new life in a different country, and that should incite a feeling of pride.
Sadly, that status has become something citizens and immigrants alike fear. The fear has caused the environment to become toxic.
Citizens might fear illegal immigrants because they speak a different language and belong to a different social class. They keep their heads down and don’t dare forget their place, because crossing the wrong citizen can mean they lose everything they have worked so hard to achieve.
Illegal immigration has been politicized to the point that the public is forgetting that immigrants are people, too, despite all the differences. Instead of creating a physical barrier to symbolize how divided this country has become, let’s become stronger and try to remind ourselves all that we have in common.