Back in December, I posted a video of my friends Laura and Sara climbing the fence at the US-Mexico border. On January 3, the video suddenly went viral and, as of writing, has been viewed 435,000 on YouTube.
In the days that followed, the video was talked about by the likes of InfoWars, Colorlines, Newsweek, Tu Vez, The Blaze, The Tucson Sentinel, Slate (France), Les Inrocks (France), and many others. The Atlantic’s Daily Dish called the video “a strong argument against a border fence.” KVOA News in Tucson ran a fantastic story on their evening news. Roberto De Vido drew a cool cartoon about the video that was published in the Tucson Sentinel.
So what’s the point of the clip?
Well, in the most general sense, the objective was to reveal the absurdity of the border fence and to raise questions about border fortification as our primary approach to managing Mexican immigration.
Physical borders are strong and convenient symbols, but fortifying them has shown little return. At more than $10 billion a year, we now spend about twice as much on border enforcement than we did in 2001. Since we began building border fences in the mid-1990s, the undocumented population has more than doubled to an estimated 11-13 million. We wasted nearly $1 billion on a so-called virtual fence—a project that the U.S. abandoned on Friday because Boeing’s cameras and sensors couldn’t tell the difference between tumbleweeds and actual national security threats. At an average cost of $4 million per mile, the wall itself is expensive. But remember that people cut holes in walls, so we are not just committing to construction costs, but also to maintenance and repairs—an estimated $6.5 billion over the next two decades.
Rather than building symbols in the desert, we should be working to develop effective solutions that make us better off. Why not invest in an immigration system that offers more temporary work visas so that we may actually regulate and monitor the immigration flows that are inevitable, meet the labor demands of our economy, and prevent the tragic and unnecessary deaths and rapes that occur in the Arizona desert as a result of our failed border policy? Why waste $1 billion on a virtual fence when we could invest in programs to help immigrants learn English, integrate, and develop skills that will make them and our economy stronger? Why not commit ourselves to a true economic partnership with Mexico that leads to greater prosperity and security on both sides of the border?