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April 23, 2017

OPINION: Walls aren't the real problem or solution


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Graphic by Annie Scalet/The Collegian

 

Everywhere you look, walls are going up. 

That new gated community down the road, the chain-link fence around your neighbor’s yard, that one house at the top of the hill with the seven-foot brick wall, even the local pool has a steel fence surrounding it. 

Most of the time, we accept those barriers as a part of life, I mean, if you had a house on a hill, wouldn’t you want it to be gated off? Fences are to keep the kids from running into the streets, to keep the dogs close to the house, to make sure nobody throws the deck chairs into the pool. They’re a logical way to maintain the status quo, and, for the most part, they succeed. Sure, they might separate groups of people and foster suspicion, but it’s easy to have a chat over the fence, right?

The motivation for fences comes from a very human desire to stake out territory and to guard what’s rightfully yours. Gates and walls provide a physical way to go about protecting you and your own. They give the impression of strength, power and authority. Will a fence stop a determined burglar? Maybe not, but it sure makes you feel better.

Surprisingly, or maybe not, the same concept applies to nations. Just like gates and fences are going up in communities, walls are being built on a national level. The Israeli West Bank barrier, the India-Bangladesh border wall and the U.S.-Mexico wall are just a few of the border walls being constructed all over the world. Governments build walls in an effort to mitigate migration, preserve a specific way of life or citizenry or protect a certain homogeneous national identity.

Unfortunately, if we closely examine the reasons behind these barriers and their actual achievements, it gets ugly.

Let’s use the the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico as a case study. One of the main reasons for the construction of the wall was citizens’ concern about illegal immigration, the claim that Mexican immigrants were stealing jobs that rightfully belonged to legal American citizens. 

Obviously, there’s only so much a government can do about border immigration and closing the border can only go so far. In an effort to appease a small group of angry citizens, the U.S. government proposed building a wall between the two countries. 

Has it stopped illegal immigration? Nope. 

Will it ever stop desperate people from crossing the border? Probably not.

Essentially, walls are a great way for governments to look like they’re doing something, while not solving any real problems.

In an increasingly globalized world, nations scramble to protect themselves, their citizens and their national identities. They sequester themselves from any foreign influence by frantically building walls and barriers, both physical and verbal. Rather than strengthening themselves and their economies by welcoming immigrants and the skills they bring, nations turn to isolation.

Illegal immigration is still illegal.

Yet efforts should be made to streamline the immigration process to make it easier and less time-consuming. Coming into this country illegally is dangerous and criminal and not something that should be supported or promoted.

But building a massive wall is not the solution.

America was founded on immigrants, and we should not close down the borders. Building physical barriers only fosters resentment and anger. Instead, we should focus our efforts on promoting legal immigration and avoiding the fear and oppression that walls between people create. 

Only by learning what causes discrimination and hate, then working to remedy that, can we begin to tear down our mental and physical walls.

Contact opinions writer Eliza Sturgeon at eliza.sturgeon@richmond.edu.


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