By Christina Tarr
We must have Security at our VERY DANGEROUS SOUTHERN BORDER, and we must have a great WALL to help protect us, and to help stop the massive inflow of drugs pouring into our country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 16, 2018
A keystone of Trump’s presidential campaign was his call for an enormous wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. According to Trump, Mexico would pay for it and it would keep very dangerous immigrants out. The idea is popular with xenophobic and racist members of his base, and we know he continues to use the argument to whip up their support.
On January 18, 2018, Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly said that Trump’s ideas on the border wall had evolved, and that he was willing to consider fencing or other nonphysical ways to monitor the border. But in fact, Trump’s thinking has not evolved. He shot back in a Tweet:
The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it. Parts will be, of necessity, see through and it was never intended to be built in areas where there is natural protection such as mountains, wastelands or tough rivers or water…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2018
We all know what a disaster this wall would be for humans – splitting families apart, forcing people who must cross the border into more and more inhospitable and dangerous lands while cutting off access to American-owned lands along the border. And we know the wall would be futile at curbing immigration. As Bill Maher says, “You know how immigrants come here, right? They buy a ticket, just like you do when you’re returning from Cabo. They fly here, and then they stay.”
We all also know there are far better things we could do with the $66.9 billion the wall is estimated to cost. The Sierra Club notes that even for the $3 billion budgeted for immigration enforcement funds for fiscal year 2018, we could create 45,000 middle class jobs, or build 184 new elementary schools.
Bottom line: It’s a dumb idea and a waste of money.
But there’s more: often overlooked in the furor and tweets about the wall is the irrevocable damage it would do to the environment. The 654 miles of existing walls and fences on the US-Mexico border have already made an environmental mess: destroying pristine wilderness, harming populations of rare and endangered animals, and causing flood or starving the land of water. And there is every reason to believe that adding more miles of wall would do more of the same:
- The border lands are an area of great species richness, both because they are at the edges of different habitats, and also because they are underpopulated and have been protected from human activity for hundreds of years. These lands are home to Sonoran pronghorn, prairie dogs, black bears, and gray wolves; they contain some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the continent. More than 450 rare species live here – some cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. At least 700 neotropical birds, mammals, and insects migrate through the borderlands each year.
- The wall would destroy and fragment habitats of rare and endangered animals including the jaguar, ocelot, and Mexican gray wolf, cut them off from larger populations needed to retain gene pools or from water and food, and block migration corridors for endangered species.
- The wall, if high enough, could block birds and bats from resources and larger populations on the other side of it.
- The wall could kill pollinators, including butterflies, with lights and zaps.
- The wall would act as a dam, blocking water from flowing where it needs to go and causing flooding by interrupting flood plains.
- Construction of the wall would not be regulated by law. The Department of Homeland Security has, bizarrely, used Section 102 of the 2005 Real ID Act to waive construction on 15 miles along the San Diego border from complying with any part of 37 federal laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Solid Waste Disposal Act.
- Wildlife refuges and national parks may be most at risk for wall construction because the U.S. government already owns the land.
- Concrete construction releases a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide, posing environmental risks that this Administration has shown no inclination to control or mitigate.
How we can fight against the wall:
- Contact your members of congress. Let them know you oppose the environmental consequences of this wall in addition to the human costs.
- Tell everyone you know, and urge them to contact their MoCs.
- Contact your city, county, and state and ask them to divest from companies that would profit from building the wall.
- See Indivisible Guide’s article “Resisting Trump’s Budget: No Cuts, No Wall, No Deportation Force” for more info and talking points.
- See the Sierra Club’s “Border Wall Toolkit“
- Find more actions at Center for Biological Diversity’s article “No Border Wall“
- Look for chances to resist – like this protest in Texas – and take part, or organize one in your community!
Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places.
Photograph © Steve Hillebrand, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service