The most pressing domestic question facing our nation today is the issue of border security and the government shutdown. Lasting 35days, it was the longest shutdown in U.S. history. According to a New York Times estimate, the average federal worker lost approximately $5,000 in pay, with some employees in the Securities and Exchange Commission out nearly $12,500. Not only are 800,000 furloughed federal workers unable to afford essential goods and services, but the government itself is also losing revenue due to an inability to collect entrance fees at national parks, federally-run museums, and other government programs.
If back pay is approved for furloughed employees, they will essentially be paid for getting temporarily laid off, causing a net loss in money for the federal government. CNBC’s Markets and Investing department reports that “if the shutdown lasts two more weeks, the cost to the economy will exceed [the] price of [President] Trump’s wall.” Obviously, therefore, the government shutdown (however partial it may be) is not an economically viable solution to passing a border security deal. But this shutdown is about more than numbers, it’s about the people and institutions of America.
Being unable to completely fund our government is a national embarrassment that costs America clout and standing in negotiations on the global stage. If we cannot even fund our own government, how can other countries trust us to pay back loans on time, support them in war, or provide them with essential humanitarian aid? The simple answer is—they can’t. Every day the President and Congress refuse to fulfill their constitutional obligations to provide funding for this fiscal year, they feed ammunition to the enemies of freedom who would gladly exploit our weakened international standing to harm our nation and its interests.
American vulnerability due to the shutdown must end now, but building a wall is not the answer. Customs and Border Protection, the agency responsible for dealing with illegal immigration and drugs entering the country, declares that “90 percent of heroin…88 percent of cocaine, 87 percent of methamphetamine, and 80 percent of fentanyl” are seized at legal border crossings and ports of entry. These are among the most dangerous drugs available, and are often the ones President Trump says he will stop by building the wall. However, building a wall would be a $5.7 billion initial investment (not even considering the future costs of maintenance, staffing, and anti-tunneling upgrades) and would only stop a small fraction of the illegal drug trade.
The Cato Institute, a conservative think tank, challenges the wall’s legality because of treaties with Mexico regarding water rights to the Rio Grande valley. The fence that already exists in that section of the border causes massive flooding in some areas of Mexico, while restricting water flow to a mere trickle in others. Not only does this cause legal and humanitarian problems, but it also poses a threat to the wall itself. The Cato Institute article also discusses a 40-foot section of fencing in Arizona that was swept away by floods.
It seems clear that a wall that could be swept away by powerful flooding may not be the best solution to a porous border. NPR states that “people who overstayed their visas accounted for 62% of the undocumented,” making 2018 the seventh year in a row that overstays outnumbered border crossings. People who overstay their visas come to the United States legally at first, so building a wall across the border would not stop them from entering. There is some evidence to suggest that it might even do more to trap them in than discourage their entrance.
The Council on Foreign Relations reports that Wayne Cornelius, a University of California professor, conducted a study in which he “found that, among Mexicans surveyed in his study, 37 percent stayed in the United States longer” because of increased border security funding. The wall will be ineffective at keeping drugs and illegal immigrants out of the country, will be very costly both upfront and in the long run, and could cause legal or humanitarian hurdles if flooding becomes an issue in the Rio Grande region. I, like most Americans, believe that more needs to be done to secure our borders. However, given the facts that I have found, I cannot see how continuing the government shutdown or building the President’s wall would accomplish that goal.