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He Says He Wants to Build a Wall: Beyond the Republican Nominee's Hyped-up Rhetoric

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US - Mexico Border Fence
US - Mexico Border Fence
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He says he wants to build a wall. I won't say his name because you know his name and I've decided he deserves the Voldemort treatment.

He says he wants to build a wall, and from some quarters there are cheers. Meanwhile other commentators (naturally) express outrage and indignation. But here's a question: beyond simple pandering or racism, what's really behind this whole idea of a wall?

For reference, the US currently spends around $19 billion annually on Border Control. A chunk of that, a fact often overlooked by those who don't live near the Border, goes to maintaining the massive stretches of wall that actually already exist. In truth, the US-Mexico border is already highly militarized and draining an incredible amount of federal and state resources as you read this.

Yet the migrants keep coming. They wander through vast expanses of desert to avoid detection, frequently dying before they reach their destinations. They come as families, as unaccompanied minors, and surrender themselves to border patrol hoping they will be granted asylum. They come on visas and overstay them. They climb walls.

The migrants come from Mexico, Central America, Africa, the Middle East, and all over the world. They come through whatever channels their means and country of origin allow them. They come, more and more often, with the dubious "help" of smugglers--entrepreneurs of a black-market industry that is a 100% predictable result of border militarization.

He-who-would-build-the-wall and his not-so-grand old party blame all this on a lack of commitment and a failure of will from the liberal establishment. As the Ted Cruz "argument" goes, if we were to literally double-down (i.e. build two walls), then we'd see results.

Under Plan Mexico, we can already see how this logic of militarization plays out, as the Mexico-Guatemala border has become the US BP's new hot spot.

It's only reasonable. These people (these fleeing women and children, these refugees, these workers) keep showing up faster than we can catch them, so we've got to cut them off further down the line. One can only assume that once Guatemala's northern border resembles El Paso, TX, it will then be necessary to evaluate the leaky Honduran border. Or the Panamanian border with Colombia, which is surely little more than a glorified sieve. Or the Canadian border, for that matter, which they might as well rename the Canadian wafer.

There is no end to this logic. Insofar as the world is interconnected, people will continue to migrate. To flee violence and deprivation, to reunite with family, to follow a dream--whatever it may be, they will find a way.

Which brings us back to the original question: what is behind this whole idea of a wall? Is one half of the American political establishment simply brain-dead? For the sake of this argument, let's assume that no.

Recall then that he-who-would-build-the-wall has built (to put it generously) an economic empire that depends in no small part on hyper-exploited immigrant labor. Who is he, then, to demonize immigrants now?

The key to this seeming paradox is simple, but troubling. American capitalists wish to keep hyper-exploiting immigrant labor, while the conservative wing of the American political establishment wishes to keep scapegoating immigrants to distract from real issues. These two groups share many ties (and are often embodied in the same red toupee-wearing individuals), yet they seem to contradict one another. This is because, collectively, they wish to have their cake and eat it too. And they rely on cognitive dissonance to keep the rest of us both confused about who took our piece of cake and somehow blaming Margarito the baker for our empty stomachs.

On the whole, the joint corporate honchos and border-mongers' strategy seems to be holding together. And for the former, there is an added bonus to the arrangement: no worker is more timid and reliable than an eminently deportable one who currently owes $8,000 to a Mafioso smuggler. Or one who had to fight through barbed wire and the Sonoran desert just to arrive here in the not-so-promised land.

In other words, American immigration policy is trapped in a tense but stable trinity of reactionary politicians, big business, and the special interests of those who profit off of border militarization in particular. How trapped? A liberal democrat has now become the all-time-record setting Deporter-in-Chief and is unable to implement even the most limited measures of relief.

There is, however, another way. In our country there is enough wealth to provide education and healthcare to the immigrants who cross our borders. There is enough work and space to legally employ all laborers and offer paths to citizenship openly and freely. And there are enough resources and caring citizens to offer transitional housing and training to all those who would need it.

Where would the money come from, you ask? I hear there's a guy who wants to build a wall who has more than he knows what to do with.

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Writer in Austin, TX. Activist. Shelter-worker with refugees.

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He Says He Wants to Build a Wall: Beyond the Republican Nominee's Hyped-up Rhetoric

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