We’ve heard the same rhetoric repeated more times than we would have cared for, “We’re going to build a great wall on our southern border and I will make Mexico pay for that wall, mark my words.” It was really surprising and more than a little disturbing hearing it the first time. It’s quite reminiscent of the rhetoric I’m used to hearing growing up in the Middle East with its multitude of corrupted “democratic” leaders and despotic regimes. Trust me when I say this, those are not a bunch you would want to emulate.
Not surprisingly though, Trump shifted the burden of financing this racist monument to the American taxpayer later to be recouped from their southern neighbor. But how much would building a wall really cost? I’m no civil engineer and thus deferred this matter to one with much greater experience… Google.
The length of the border between the US and Mexico is around 2,000 miles long. However, not all of it is flat land, parts of the terrain include mountains and rivers. Trump has estimated a wall would cost up to $12 billion to build. But It could even be more than triple that, $38 billion, according to an analysis published by MIT Technology Review. Its measurements are based on a wall that is only 1,000 miles long, with a height of 50 feet and a foundation that would go 10 feet below ground level. The estimates take into account concrete and steel costs, along with the cost of labor. To put into perspective, that’s equal to the entire annual budget for the Department of Homeland Security.
Now these are only the direct costs and this would not be Booth if we don’t take a bit of an economic twist to it. The costs fail to take into consideration the negative externalities associated with this project. What about the effect on immigration? What message is he sending out to the world? Is hate speech ok now? Is it ok to exclude people who don’t fit our preconceptions? For instance, there are millions of men, women, and children living in communities that fall on both sides of the international boundary who cross the border each day.
As president of the US, Trump holds a very respectable office that carries a significant amount of influence internationally, for good and for bad. Unfortunately, we’re already seeing some of the “let’s build a wall” effects. The rise of populism, the majority vs. the minority, protectionism, restrictions on trade, restrictions on labor flows, etc.. After the world has taken major strides with regards to human rights and equality, are we now taking a step back?
I’m writing to say that the effect of building this wall and the hateful speech that goes with it will resonate much wider globally. As is the case with pollution, the negative externalities of which could be catastrophic. Now perhaps things are already set in motion in Washington and that the wall cannot be avoided. What we can do here as Booth students in response to this is to cultivate an environment of tolerance. I expect many of you to reach high in your professional lives. In time, some of you might hold positions of great importance and authority. So, if Trump is building a physical wall, then let’s do our best to tear down the ones inside of us.
Abdulaziz Saja is a 2nd year full-time student who doesn't like walls