Reasons Why The Southern Border Wall Won’t Work

Donald Trump's wall
Img Source - NBC News

The year is 2015 and the month is June. Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump is on his campaign trail and makes the promise that becomes a significant part of his presidential campaign and eventually his presidency. “I will build a great, great wall on our southern border,” were his exact words. He further adds, “And I will have Mexico pay for that wall.” Followed by a tirade about Mexican rapists and drug dealers. With these two promises, he won the hearts of many conservative Americans and some would say might just have been the tipping point that gave him the win over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Former President Trump often faced criticism for lacking precision in his policy ideas. However, if there was one policy he had put a lot of thought into, it was his border wall. He had bold and detailed requirements for this wall. It would stretch over 1,000 miles long (the other 1,500, he said, were covered by “natural barriers”) and have an estimated height of 35 feet. Now to put this height into perspective, even if you stacked Lebron James 5 times besides the wall, the wall would still be taller. 

That wall became a frequently talked about topic in the country and not a week would pass without it being mentioned in the press. It even became famously known as “Trump’s border wall.” The man wasn’t going to relent on getting the wall done. He even went to the extent of halting the U.S government in its longest-ever federal shutdown as he demanded more than five billion U.S dollars to fund the wall but eventually caved in as it was detrimental damage to the economy. So why was congress reluctant to release the five billion dollars Trump asked for his border wall? Is it because that it would have been a waste of taxpayers’ resources on a project that wouldn’t achieve its intended purpose?

Border walls are not a new concept and have been used in the past dating even before the world wars. From the Great Wall of China to the Berlin Wall and France’s Maginot Line in World War II, border walls haven’t always been successful. Even in the United States, the Clinton administration began constructing barrier fences in the early 1990s to take care of border security but it didn’t prove to be fruitful. 

So why do governments, particularly former President Trump’s administration, in this case, continue to fall back on the idea of border walls? Border experts suggest that the reasons range from a dramatic increase in population, a rise in nationalism in response to globalization, racism, and the looming threat of terrorism in a post-9/11 world

So now that we’ve established the possible reasons why a majority of Americans supported Trump’s idea of erecting a border wall it’s time to look at the facts and see if it is a feasible idea. Political pundits were very skeptical about this particular promise by the former real estate mogul turned president and they had their reasons. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that the wall wouldn’t have been the best idea for border security in the south and below are a few reasons based on expert analysis on why the wall won’t work.

A Lot of Undocumented Immigrants Are Already in The Country

The president implied that the wall will keep out droves of undocumented immigrants. This wouldn’t be effective because a good number of undocumented immigrants already reside within the country. Government data suggests that the main source of illegal immigration is through legal migrants who overstay their visas. DHS estimates that out of the 45 million immigrants who entered the country either via airports or seaports on tourist or business visas that expired in 2015, roughly 416,500 were still living in the country by 2016. This is a really big number and there’s nothing the wall can do about that.

Cartels Can Outsmart Checkpoints

According to former President Trump, the border wall should stop the flow of drugs, guns, and other illegal commodities through the U.S-Mexico border. However, the 650 miles of wall that already exist on the same border have pushed Mexican cartels to do better and organize and control the transportation of illicit goods through the legal points of entry. A report showed that the cartels are studying how these legal points of entry work and are looking for an opportune time to strike, like when measures have been relaxed. They are also becoming more clever and tactical with their approach and have adjusted their operations to make it easy to cross border points. For example, instead of smuggling guns, they are smuggling parts instead. Parts are easier to conceal and lack identification numbers, which makes it more difficult to trace them.

Legal Obstacles

Most of the land along borders is privately owned so the Trump administration would have had to find a way to convince these owners to sell their property rights so that a federal project can be undertaken. It is for this reason that a good chunk of the already existing border wall is located in California, Arizona, and New Mexico. They are all on federally controlled land. Take for example the time when the Bush administration wanted to build a border fence. Some of the landowners refused to sign off their property rights and when the government attempted to use eminent domain to seize their property, a series of lawsuits followed. These suits imposed serious delays with some cases taking as long as nine years. Such legal obstacles are the reason why the construction of Trump’s wall looks like an impossible feat.

Terrorists Aren’t Undocumented

Trump was very adamant that the new border wall will thwart terrorists in their tracks. Data suggests that this is far from true. There is no evidence that any terrorists have ever entered through the southern border and the DHS has insisted that there is “no credible intelligence to suggest terrorist organizations are actively plotting to cross the southwest border.” To further back this point, most US terrorists are homegrown. Since 9/11, over 80% of people who were charged with or died while engaging in jihad-related terrorist activities in the United States have been citizens or permanent residents of the country. Furthermore, out of 154 foreign-born people who committed or plotted terrorist attacks on U.S. soil from 1975 through 2015, only one of them was Mexican. This just goes to show that the border wall will do very little to stop terrorism.

Practical Considerations

The wall is set to obstruct crossers’ way by cutting off a straight path into the country. However, where there is a will, there is a way and someone who has traveled hundreds of miles to get into the US isn’t going to turn back just because of a wall. Some fencing can very easily be cut in minutes, and the Border Patrol reported repairing more than 4,000 holes in one year alone. In addition to that, the wall is vulnerable to natural disasters and storms. For example, a storm in Texas left a hole in the original fencing for months and that is simply why the wall won’t work. 


After all that thought and consideration from the past administration, the southern border  wall is far from working the effects intended.  The explanations above say it all. It might hinder a few people from crossing but it doesn’t address deeper and more rooted issues such as smuggling and drug cartels, and it certainly does not deter asylum seekers from coming. 

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