Originally Posted: June 22, 2018
By: Mary E. Mendoza, assistant professor of history and Latinx studies at Penn State University and the David J. Weber Fellow for Study of Southwestern America at the Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University.
As immigration policy again dominates the news, President Trump’s administration has resorted to creative justifications for its draconian policies, including demands for a border wall. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke might just have trotted out the most creative rationale, arguing: “It’s a national security issue, a national defense issue, it’s a humanitarian crisis, and oh, by the way, it’s an environmental crisis,” implying that a wall would help solve all of these problems.
Perhaps Zinke is right about the broad dimensions of the problem. But instead of solving the environmental and humanitarian crises at the border, a wall would exacerbate them. Walls don’t stop migration. Instead they push migrants to navigate more dangerous landscapes where they risk their lives while doing grave environmental harm.
The United States has been building border fences along the U.S.-Mexico boundary since 1911. But for the first three decades, these fences were not meant to control human migration. Instead, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) constructed them to combat a cattle disease that ravaged the northern ranges of the United States. A tick that moved from south to north was the culprit of this fatal disease. Cattle in the south had been exposed to the tick before the age of 6 months, so they were immune to the disease. But when those cattle traveled north, they exposed susceptible cattle to the bug. READ MORE