For decades we have heard that the solution to the immigration problem is to build a wall across the Mexican border. And while there has been much debate over whether we should or should not build the wall, there may actually be a president who will begin the process. Idealistically, the wall would span the boarder and cause a cease of illegal immigrants entering the country. I say this is idealistic because that is what it is at best. There are several concerns which should be addressed concerning the building of the wall. Primarily these are cost, practical effectiveness, and our national image.
The boarder of Mexico spans 1,989 miles. This span of territory is a fraction of the length of the comparable Great Wall (as the Ming Great wall alone measures 5,500.3 miles) which is so commonly referenced when talking about making a wall. The difference in the wall is not in the length or in the question of can it be built, or highway system and other man-made achievements says that it can be done, the question is in construction and in costs.
When accessing the cost of the wall it was calculated that it could cost billions. Currently that estimation is at $49 billion dollars with only a 25 year lifespan. To put this into perspective, it would cost each American (infant to elderly) $140.41. Granted, this number may not seem to be a great deal, but then calculate in the percentage of people that are (a) unemployed (b) infants or elderly and this number rises. Tack on to this the operation cost and the number grows more. And where I would have no problem in paying such a tax for a wall that was effective and would diminish illegal activity, the studies show that the wall would only last 25 years max which raises the second issue.
There are three main faults in building the wall (though there are arguments for several more). The first is that a wall has a beginning and an end. This means that regardless of how tall and how long the wall is, those that want to get around the wall will simply go to the end and come in that way. Theoretically, you could build a wall around the entire United States, but that would make us more of a prison than it would a country, so let us abandon that thought. Secondly, a great deal of studies have been conducted on the height of the wall and the length, but I have yet to see a study showing how far down they plan to build the wall. One of the main problems with the existing structure is not so much that the wall is not there but that illegals are tunneling under the wall. Has there been any thought as to how we are to prevent such tunneling under our $49 billion wall? Finally, a wall in Mexico will not stop illegal immigration. More illegals come through Canada than through Mexico. In fact, that is how the 9-11 terrorists entered the country.
When I think about a wall that divides two countries, I cannot help but to think back to the 80s and the Berlin Wall. There is just something about a structure like a wall that gives a bad image to a country or to an establishment. Think about a prison. How can it be identified quickly? By the wall around it. While I understand that the wall on the boarder is to give the impression that we do not want to have illegal immigration, the National Image may be a bit more negative. Again, the northern border would be called into question with the only solution being to build a wall there as well. Obviously, such a wall with Canada could and probably would hurt our relationship with the country.
Should we build the wall?
For immediate containment and control purposes a wall is a viable solution. However, this should not be our policy for restricting immigration. It is a Band-Aid on a bigger wound. Tougher legislation on illegals, regulations on visas, and a non-tolerance for those which break such policies are needed. If we are to build a permanent wall, then the wall will need to be constructed so that people cannot go around it, over it or under it. The wall would need to be constantly monitored from both sides for integrity purposes, and it would need to be constructed as a regulatory structure (meaning that we are regulating the traffic from Mexico to the United States) and not a restricting structure (such as the Berlin wall). While a wall is an idealistic (i.e., unrealistic) for the solution, I believe much remains which has not been addressed.
Sources and references:
 Based upon 320 million people in the United States divided by cost