Democrats must oppose border wall

Democrats must oppose border wall

Donald Trump was elected President because he made a grand, impossible promise to the American people: that he would build a Great Wall of America on our country’s southern border that would finally separate Us and Them. 

This was not going to be a fence, nor a hypothetical barrier. Trump promised a literal, physical wall, too high to climb over and too deep to tunnel under, which would cut through thousands of miles of borderland. It would also be see-through. Depending on your perspective, this is either a utopian or dystopian vision, but either way, you can’t deny its scope and imagination.

Trump’s promises on immigration have since shut down the government in Washington. The White House blocked a deal proposed by Senate Democrats which would have paid for the wall, given citizenship to the children of immigrants (“DREAMers”) and reinstated a children’s health program called CHIP. Democrats later voted against a temporary bill to fund the government and extend CHIP. Until “President Deals” can broker a compromise, many government employees will be temporarily furloughed, though the military will operate as normal.

Most media coverage of the shutdown is attempting to to assign blame, and not commenting on the fact that there’s a bipartisan bill before the U.S. Congress that would pay for a nightmarishly racist policy. Trump’s border wall is a dark symbol, a physical manifestation of American nationalism. But it would also have violent real world consequences: property destruction, environmental disruption and the emboldening of ICE to carry out further violence on the border.

For these reasons, Democrats must block any attempt to fund the wall, using any means necessary, including continuing the government shutdown.

Some Trump supporters insist that the wall and the GOP’s harsh immigration policies have nothing to do with race. They argue the wall will protect Americans from dangerous criminals and drug cartels, as well as protect “our” jobs from foreign competition. 

These are xenophobic tropes, whether one is willing to admit them or not. And neither has any basis in reality. Most immigrants coming into the United States are not dangerous criminals, and immigration provides an overall benefit to the economy. Exploitative trade deals, the decline of American unionism and the lack of a strong social safety net have much more to do with our country’s economic stagnation than immigration.

However, many other Trump supporters and surrogates are simply open about their belief in racial nationalism and are eager for a harsh immigration policy. On Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, commentator Mark Steyn mourned immigration into the state of Arizona, which he said would effectively move the U.S.-Mexico border north and turn the state into a “Hispanic society.”

Iowa Congressman Steve King infamously tweeted that “you cannot rebuild a civilization with somebody else’s babies.” 

Supporters of the wall want to define the United States along an ethnic basis, and create a society in which some people are more “American” than others. They wish to enforce this definition violently, through the building of the ugly wall and through further brutal deportations.

Democrats have a special obligation to stop the wall, because their party has a shameful history on immigration, too. In 2006, Chuck Schumer and then-Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton voted for the Secure Border Fence Act, which built hundreds of miles of a barricade between the United States and Mexico. As President, Obama deported more immigrants than any other chief executive in our country’s history. 

In addition, the United States has an obligation to many of these immigrants, who are not Mexican, but from Central American countries that the U.S. government destroyed through wars and coups it supported. Nicaragua, Panama and Honduras have all faced American military aggression in the past 40 years, and we owe a debt to refugees of that violence.

Because of this, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and the other Congressional Democrats must hold the line against the wall. They should refuse any grand bargain with the president, and attempt to cleanly pass a government budget, protection for the DREAMers and funding for CHIP without the wall attached.

A country should not be based on a certain race or ethnic group, it should give equal protection and rights to its entire population. Borders between countries are drawn and maintained in blood, and must be weakened and eventually erased, not strengthened and reinforced with violence. Stop the wall.

Sam West is a senior majoring in history and journalism. His column runs biweekly. He is managing editor of The Crimson White. 

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