What the Border Wall Looks Like After Visiting the Border


Allison Baroni, Features Editor

As I stood below the border wall between the United States and Mexico, there were many thoughts and emotions running through my head. To begin, it was tall. Towering over me, it cast a shadow that stretched far down the street. The rusty colored bars reached high into the sky and as I stepped back, squinting past them to try to see through to the other side, there was no denying that there was a very clear message being sent: This is where your part of the world ends.

Depending on where you are standing, the Nogales, Arizona border wall towers between 15 and 18 feet high, running for hundreds of miles along the southern Arizona-Mexico border. It cuts the city of Nogales in two, creating the Nogales, Arizona side and the Nogales, Mexico side. A street that used to cross the border is visibly cut in two, and giant gates mark the entrance for trains that have to be emptied of their Mexican conductors and filled with their American ones before crossing into the United States. Border Patrol officers watch the area along the wall from watch towers, patrol stations, and video cameras. No one gets through without them knowing or over without them seeing.

I went down to Nogales with fellow students from Presentation and Bellarmine over Easter break, where we met with migrants and were educated on immigration issues as part of the Kino Border Initiative.

As we talked with people who had been recently deported, met with Border Patrol agents and walked through the desert that migrants have to cross through in order to get to the U.S., the current political atmosphere was heavily present. Multiple migrants asked many of us what our opinion was of President Trump. Border Patrol was prepared for our questions concerning the wall. Trump’s influence can be seen across the border, and the implications of his policies and his infamous wall were in the back of my mind the entire time that I was there.

I have never been a supporter of Trump nor his wall, and my experiences at the border have only solidified my opinion. We need true immigration reform that protects the rights and human dignity of all migrants and refrains from the dangerous process of dehumanization. Our current system is broken, but not for the reasons that most people seem to think and not because of reasons that can be solved by building a bigger wall.

To begin, choosing to spend billions of dollars constructing a concrete wall in an attempt to solve the complex issue of illegal immigration rejects the responsibility that we have to fix problems that we have created. America has played a sizable role in the destabilization of many Central American countries and the increased poverty of many citizens in Mexico, feeding the issues that lead people to come to America in the hopes of a better life.

For example, NAFTA, which was put into effect 1993, flooded the Mexican economy with subsidized American corn and other staples. Mexican farmers could not compete with the low prices and because of this, around two million Mexican farmers lost their jobs. As a result, many have been forced to attempt to cross the border because they no longer have a way to support themselves at home. To contribute to the economic poverty of individuals in another country and respond to the desperation that we have created by creating a physical barrier between us and them rejects their human dignity and is an irresponsible use of the powerful economic position that America is in.

Walls also send very clear messages: you’re practically shouting we don’t want you here. This is a message many Americans want to be sent. But to desire this is to ignore that this message is being sent to individual people. In Nogales, I had the opportunity to meet with many individuals, both attempting to cross into America and trying to figure out what to do once they had been deported. One boy that I met was from Honduras. At 17, he had come up to the border in the hopes of crossing so that he could work in construction painting houses. He wanted to make money to support his mother and sister back home in Honduras. The same age as me, this was what he was dreaming of. What he was risking his life for. Is this the type of person that we don’t want in our country?

The inhumane message of “we don’t want you” that the current wall sends would be dramatically increased by the construction of 40 foot concrete wall. I experienced a taste of what it would be like to live under such a wall as I stood on the Mexican side of the border. At 18 feet, the current wall towered over me, and I couldn’t imagine an even taller one.  

All I could think about as I stood there is how trapped and limited I would feel. It didn’t matter that I could see through to the other side. I couldn’t cross. My world practically ended there. If the height–or simple presence–didn’t convey this enough, the tall watch towers, numerous security cameras, and patrolling border agents did.

` And, even if we ignore all of the moral implications of constructing a wall, it also simply doesn’t make economic sense. Border Patrol PR, when asked about the wall, told us that President Trump’s wall would not be helpful in aiding them in their work because it would be made of concrete and would not let them see through to the other side. If border patrol doesn’t think the wall is a good idea, how could we?

In the end, President Trump’s wall would do a lot of harm and no good. It doesn’t make sense, and there are much better ways to spend our money, such as revamping our current immigration system to make legal entry into the U.S. a viable option for more people.