Las Vegas Sun

April 18, 2019

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Sun editorial:

A wall has never been the answer to improved security along the border

The more the border wall grows, the more preposterous it gets.

The latest case in point comes from South Texas, where conservationists revealed that the Trump administration was planning to build a section of the wall through the heart of the National Butterfly Center.

Why, of course. What a perfect place to build an 18-foot wall that will sit on a 150-foot-wide swath of pavement — a biological refuge in a region where residents say there are few illicit border crossings and very little crime.

But with all due concern for butterflies, stories like this should be coming as no surprise by now. The wall was a ludicrous idea that will keep getting worse with every dollar wasted on it. It won’t keep anyone from going over, around or under it, and it won’t stop drug cartels and human traffickers from transporting narcotics and people to the U.S.

So while conservationists are justified in raising concerns about the environmental impact of the wall, a much bigger discussion is needed about how to improve regional security.

The answer isn’t a wall, which is an archaic approach to a modern problem.

The answer is to work with our southern neighbors to help them become prosperous and reduce drug violence in their countries.

This modern version of the Marshall Plan approach is the most promising way to defend the border — and improve our own economy in the process. If Central and South American countries are thriving, their residents will be less likely to flee north, and American businesses will gain as the huge Latin American population becomes a stronger market for them.

There would be no reason for us to talk about a wall if we hadn’t shirked our moral and practical responsibility to the region. Countries need walls if they’re insular and afraid. If they think about success and humanity and doing good business, they keep borders open and cooperate with their neighbors.

Think about it. You certainly don’t see Canadians gathering in caravans and fleeing their country for their lives.

Now, think of the costs of the wall. Estimates are all over the place, but the Department of Homeland Security puts it at a minimum of $22 billion. And no, Mr. Trump, nobody is buying your line of baloney about how Mexico is effectively paying for it as a result of the renegotiation of NAFTA.

That’s not to mention the human costs, either, including the potential for government employees to be sidelined during the holidays amid the shutdown showdown.

Another ramification: the strengthening of border walls produces a proven correlation in the number of people who die trying to get over, under or through them. It’s also all but assured to prompt migrants to take more risks to enter the country by other means.

Then there’s environmental damage, which goes way beyond butterflies.

In a recent column published in the Las Vegas Sun and elsewhere, Laiken Jordahl from the Center for Biological Diversity described an area in New Mexico where 20 miles of the wall had gone up beginning this past spring, “already doing real damage” by hindering the movements of animals in the region.

“That’s not speculation,” he wrote. “Radio-collar data show an endangered Mexican wolf migrating across the border through this very stretch of desert in 2017. Wolves know no borders. They need vast expanses of wild habitat to survive. Had the wolf found a hulking steel barrier in his path, he’d have had no choice but to turn back, axing his chances of finding a mate and undercutting the odds of his species’ recovery.”

All of these costs would be one thing if the wall were guaranteed to increase security.

But it’s not. Instead, it’s an expensive farce that will do nothing to resolve the root issues related to the border.

The real solution lies not in keeping people out but building economies and helping make our neighbors safer. We need border security, no question. But there’s a big difference between that and the wall, which experts say will not work by itself.