Mariam Ibrahimi, Assistant Online Editor

One of the president’s main promises on the campaign trail was that when he gets into office, he will build a wall on the Mexican-American border. Over two years into his presidency and the people who voted for him are now searching for this wall.

After much negotiation, Congress, which has the job of regulating such expenses, compromised on a deal for 1.4 billion dollars for 55 miles of fence in Texas. This is not nearly enough for the 5.7 billion dollars of 234 miles in steel wall that Trump had asked for. In early February, the president used, dare I say abused, his executive power to declare a “National Emergency” over the southern border in order to fund his long-promised wall.

Our nation’s very core is built by immigrants and continues to be a reason why it is well- respected across the world. America has always been a safe haven for anyone, especially immigrants and refugees, to live “the American dream.”

The notion that America should have a wall, a physical barrier, across its southern border is against American values and is impractical. Mexicans are, in fact, not ruining our economy, as the President asserts: “They’re taking our jobs. They’re taking our manufacturing jobs. They’re taking our money. They’re killing us.”

Besides, a physical barrier will not stop illegal immigration. We currently have a wall of sorts that divides the border, so what will a longer and more expensive one do?

The Mexico-U.S. border stretches across more than 1500 miles, which covers terrains including mountains, deserts and rivers. The president plans to argue for eminent domain, taking private land for public use, in order to cut through thousands of people’s land and homes that are on the border.

Depending on who you ask, the entire construction of the wall is estimated to cost anywhere from 8 to 67 billion dollars. Because there is no clear plan for where this wall is to be placed, or what it is even going to be made out of, no one really has a concrete number for how much the wall will cost.

Since Mexico is not paying for this wall, despite what President Trump claimed throughout his candidacy, America has to cough up billions of dollars that we really don’t have.  Our national debt is at 21 trillion and counting!

Experts estimate that a 1000 mile steel wall would take up to 11 years of construction and labor to build with efficiency. The maintenance of the wall, approximated to be 150 million dollars a year in a report by Senate Democrats, is another headache that taxpayers would have to deal with.

Instead of building a wall, we could use this time and effort to create a better internal system for immigration. Many supporters of the wall believe that problems the U.S. faces with illegal immigrants come from people who have jumped the southern border. This is not entirely true because building the wall will not magically remove the undocumented immigrants who are already in the country. However, they should not be deported either. As active members of our society, they deserve a place in America. A screening protocol should be set in place that allows them to become documented, without fear of deportation.

According to 2017 data from the Department of Homeland Security, a major cause of illegal immigration is people who came here legally through ports of entry, but overstayed their visas. In fiscal 2017, visa overstays amounted for about 670,000 people, which is twice the number of people caught at the US-Mexican border, 304,000. This defeats the purpose of a wall altogether.

According to the US Border Patrol, illegal border crossings are at an all-time low. Apprehensions at the southwest border in 2017 were 303,916 in comparison to 1,071,972 people caught in 2006.

According to the US Department of Labor, immigrants make up 17 percent of the American labor force. Undocumented immigrants tend to take jobs that Americans don’t. They are an asset and not taking away jobs from Americans. Without immigrants, positions that we consider menial, but that are essential to our society’s well-being, such as working in nursing facilities or manual labor like working in fields, would not be done by anyone.   

Documented or undocumented, immigrants contribute more to our economy than we want to give them credit for. Undocumented immigrants pay an estimated 13 million a year in payroll taxes that contribute to public benefit programs like Medicaid and food stamps, even though they can never collect them. They should not be tortured like this.

I may not agree with a border wall, but I do agree with one thing: we need to have a well- developed immigration system and we need to set this as a priority. The government needs to address the growing number of asylum applications. As more and more applications are ignored, it forces people to find an alternative, usually illegal, way to still enter the country.

Ports of entry into the US need to be increased because it would allow for a focus on drug trafficking at ports of entries, resulting in more drug seizures.

Another major change America needs to make, and quickly, is to improve our immigration courts. They are inefficient and understaffed courts that currently have no protections for undocumented immigrants.

Lastly, we need to invest more money into technology for things like screening who comes through ports of entry and expand programs within DHS and ICE to stop drug cartels who use advanced technology. The issues with our immigration system are ones we can work towards if we can focus on more important things, rather than a physical wall that will do little to nothing for the goals we hope to achieve.