Rise of the Issue
It was not until the early 1900s that the U.S. would build its first fence on the border with Mexico. Since then, the border has been a recurring point of controversy in the U.S. that became particularly salient as the Trump administration made it one of the cornerstones of its governance to build the wall along the 2,000-mile-long Mexican border. And although Biden’s administration put a stop to the building of the wall, it remains a very divisive issue for many Americans.
The debate mainly opposes those in favor arguing that a wall at the Mexican border would bring the U.S. more security and prosperity, and those against pointing to the negative economic, environmental, human, and trade consequences such a wall would have for the U.S.
1990 - 1994
Operations Hold the Line and Operation Gatekeeper are Undertaken
These operations were intended to reduce the amount of illegal immigration coming from a Mexico suffering from hyperinflation at the time. With these, the U.S. built the first fence for the specific purpose of keeping people out at the border of San Diego and Tijuana.
Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act is Implemented
The IIRIRA authorized $12 million for the construction of additional fencing headed east from the already existing fence built at the San Diego and Tijuana border.
Secure Fence Act is Passed
H.R.6061, otherwise known as the Secure Fence Act, enabled the construction of hundreds of miles of fencing in the following years.
The Fence is Completed
The U.S. finishes the construction of a 652 mile long fence, mixed with vehicle barriers located in designated sections, and headed east from San Diego and Tijuana to the Rio Grande River.
2017 - 2018
President Trump’s Wall
In January 2017, President Trump signed Executive Order 13767 which legislated the construction of the first border wall to replace the existing fence along the U.S. and Mexico border.
President Biden Stops Construction
In January 2020, President Biden stopped construction of a border wall authorized under President Trump.
Supporters and opponents of building a wall along the United States and Mexico border disagree on the effectiveness such a structure has as a deterrent against illegal border crossing and smuggling.
With the construction of a wall along more than 600 miles of land costing billions of tax-payer dollars, opponents and supporters have diverging views on whether such a cost will boost or hinder the economy.
Opponents believe that the presence of a wall is forcing more illegal immigrants to embark on an even more life-threatening journey than they did before, while supporters argue that a wall protects Americans who feel unsafe from the criminal activity that happens at the border.
Smuggling of drugs and weapons can be reduced with the presence of a wall.
The presence of a wall reduces the amount of points of entry smugglers can utilize, making it easier for law enforcement to predict where and how smugglers will try to cross the border.
A wall might prevent criminals from escaping the U.S.
A border wall makes it harder for criminals to escape through Mexico, and counteracts the fact that Mexico does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S.
The presence of a wall could reduce illegal immigration.
A wall makes migrant smuggling much harder and more dangerous, which can serve as a deterrent to migrants who may now see illegal border crossing as too much of a risk.
A border wall is a way to eliminate foreign trade competition.
Those who want the U.S. to become more economically independent from its foreign trade competitors see the wall as a way to slow down commerce with Mexico and bring back the production and selling of some products to the United States.
The idea of a border wall makes some Americans feel safer.
Building a wall across the Mexican border is something that resonates with a part of the American electorate and an increased need for security that needs to be addressed.
Building a border wall costs tax-payers billions.
The portion of the border where a physical structure can be built is over 600 miles long, making construction of a wall extremely expensive.
The wall is not an efficient deterrent to illegal activities and immigration.
There are many instances that show people using workarounds to the wall, by, for example, climbing the fence, digging under it, or simply changing their route to the U.S.
The wall has negative consequences on the U.S.-Mexican relationship.
Building a wall with Mexico is seen by many as an aggressive act against Mexicans, and thus also Mexico, taking the risk of deteriorating the relationship between both countries, which could result in changes in the agreements they have.
The border wall has imposed environmental hazards.
The construction of such a gigantic structure has negatively affected the natural migration of wildlife as well as changing habitats for indigenous creatures along the border.
A wall with Mexico could affect the U.S. economy in a negative way.
Much of the U.S.’ international trade is done with Mexico, meaning that putting a strain on the trade agreements between both countries would ultimately result in less trade with an important partner.