As of Sunday, the US government has been partially shut down for 16 days due to the Trump administration’s demand that a new funding package include money for a border wall with Mexico. The new House Democratic majority intends to vote on a bill to re-open the government that doesn’t include such funding soon after it’s sworn in. The administration and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have called the bill a non-starter.
But ask anyone living along the US-Mexico line, and they’ll tell you: We already have fences and walls, drones and helicopters, surveillance towers, checkpoints, and border patrol agents speeding their ATVs across the fragile biotic crust of the desert.
In fact, communities are suffering due to decades of militarization and border infrastructure. Today’s walls and fences already cover 700 miles of the 2,000-mile US-Mexico border, dividing towns and families, and causing damage to the environment and border communities, many of which are low-income, tribal, or on the Mexican side of the line.
In short, we don’t need or want another wall.
In 1994, landing strips from the Vietnam War-era were welded together into a wall that separated Nogales, Arizona from its sister city of Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. Raised like a crude, rusty flag, the wall was part of Operation Gatekeeper, implemented by the Clinton administration alongside a new border strategy called “prevention through deterrence.” The policy set out to deter border crossers by militarizing urban areas along the border.
But the sudden increase in walls, cameras, and border patrol agents did nothing to curb border crossers, and instead pushed them further into the inhospitable desert. Two decades later, the desert has become a graveyard, with more than 7,000 bodies found and thousands of additional border crossers missing.