Nearly one year ago, Pope Francis visited the US-Mexico border. The images of his approach to the Rio Grande were unforgettable, where he prayed in silence for the thousands of migrants who have died in the desert seeking freedom, safety and refuge in America.
Contrast these images with Donald J. Trump’s executive orders today directing federal funds towards the construction of a wall on the United States’ southern border, expanding immigrant detention, and resurrecting the dangerous Secure Communities program.
Make no mistake: militarizing our border communities, criminalizing and jailing migrants, and co-opting local law enforcement is un-American, senseless and inhumane policy.
What will the wall not do? The wall will not stop the thousands of refugees fleeing to our border to escape hunger, violence and political instability in Mexico and Central America. The wall will not stop the flow of drugs to American consumers, most of which pass through regular ports of entry. The wall will not address the poverty wages of maquila workers who produce goods for export to the United States.
The wall will not fix the political instability in Mexico and Northern Triangle countries abetted by US support for coups, corrupt governments and broken policies. The wall will not stop the river of US firearms that flows daily into Mexico contributing to the murders of tens of thousands in a never ending drug war fueled by American addiction.
The wall will add nothing to our national security; not a single terrorist has been apprehended crossing our southern border. The wall will not reduce crime; border communities are already the safest in the country.
What will the wall do? The wall will divert tens of billions of dollars in critical investment away from under-resourced border communities and add to our national deficit. The wall will push more vulnerable refugees to their deaths in the brutal deserts of the southwest. The wall will contradict the reputation of America as a beacon of freedom in the world.
The wall will contribute to the militarization of our border, where record numbers of federal border agents have broad authority to engage in constitutionally questionable acts of search and seizure that would not be tolerated in Boston, Houston, Kansas City or San Francisco. The wall will stand as a permanent monument to the narcissism of a man who announced his ambitions for the White House by demonizing Mexicans, border communities and migrants.
With his executive orders today, Donald J. Trump signaled his intention to follow through on dangerous promises that many hoped were simply overheated campaign rhetoric. None of these policies will fix a broken immigration system; they are a devastating affront to human dignity.
Today we recommit ourselves to solidarity with our migrant sisters and brothers, to defending the values and gifts of our border, and to opposing the militarization and wall-building that is tearing our families, communities and nation apart.
On his return to Rome from the border, Pope Francis’ words could not have been clearer: “A person who thinks only about building walls and not building bridges is not Christian. This is not the Gospel.”
We couldn’t agree more. And now the work begins afresh.
Author: Dylan Corbett – Director, Hope Border Institute