Why we should reach across borders, not close them

Trump's Mexican wall plans mirror the divisiveness he'd stir on home front; yet Canadian border is far from secure

Published November 6, 2016 4:59PM (EST)

 (Reuters/Jonathan Drake)
(Reuters/Jonathan Drake)

A nation's border is nothing in and of itself. It's just an inanimate line on a map, in the dirt on a riverbank. It has no philosophy, personality, feelings or meaning — beyond what people on either side attribute to it.

Unfortunately, thanks to Donnie Trump's xenophobic demagoguery in this presidential election, America finds itself in a destructive border war — not with Mexico, but with itself. In his rallies, he leads his true believers in angry chants of "Build that wall!" He's demanding that our southwestern border with Mexico be turned into a hostile barrier of national, cultural and racial separation that will physically scream at Latino people, "KEEP OUT!"

This isn't conjecture: You can see it for yourself, for about a third of that 2,000-mile frontier has already been desecrated with a massive metal wall, thrusting as much as 30 feet high. It scowls at Mexico with such military fortifications as pole-mounted cameras, 24-hour radar, vibration sensors, all-seeing drones, surveillance balloons and Blackhawk helicopters.

It has made the border mean, yet — get this — it doesn't work! Migrants and traffickers continually overcome it. "The wall is a fantasy," said an Arizona border sheriff. A rancher and diehard Trump supporter dismissed Donnie's barrier scheme as a "farce."

Worse, the existing wall and Trump's extension of it is a perversion of what this border has been for centuries: an enriching connection point for people on either side. In fact, there were no sides — festivals paraded from Mexico into the U.S. and back again. Businesses were totally binational. Families extended across the so-called line. Kids played together on both sides, and the community was an organic whole.

Trump doesn't concern himself with the hardship that his wall extension would have on the hardworking people living along the border. He has convinced himself that hordes of rapists and drug dealers are pouring into the country in droves. Indeed, Donnie warned his supporters that if he does not win the election, we "could have 650 million people pour in and we do nothing about it. Think of it: That's what could happen. You triple the size of our country in one week." That's more than the entire populations of Mexico, Central America and South America combined.

Not that there's not an issue with border security. For example, at one part of the border, three Guatemalans waited until dusk to make their move, evading security in the remote expanse, illicitly slipping into our country. As The New York Times recently reported, "This area is a haven for smugglers and cross-border criminal organizations."

If Donald Trump were to witness such a scene, his hair would burst into flames and he'd fall into such a furious rant his lungs would explode! But the Donald will never see it, speak about it or even know about it because he's always facing south, fulminating against Mexicans, Central Americans and South Americans who cross our southern border.

Meanwhile, the scene described by The New York Times took place way up north, where rural Vermont connects to Canada. With so many of our nation's political and security officials obsessed with the southern border, more and more criminal action — including smuggling people, drugs and weapons — has been coming across our 5,500-mile Canadian border, the longest in the world between two countries.

From the Atlantic to the Pacific through sparsely populated and heavily wooded terrain, there's often no clear demarcation of where Canada ends and the U.S. begins. Some farms, homes and businesses actually sprawl across the border.

Meanwhile, only about 2,000 agents patrol this vast stretch, and officials concede they don't even have a good guess of how many people and how much contraband is coming across or from where.

So, Mr. Trump, shall we wall off Canada, too? And how much of our public treasury, democratic idealism and international goodwill shall we dump into the folly of militarizing both borders? By simply thinking we can wall the world out, we'll be walling ourselves in — and that's suicidal. Trump's wall won't keep undocumented migrants out, but it will lock out America's egalitarian ideal of cross-cultural community. Rather than walling off borders, our true national security requires that we reach across them in all directions.

By Jim Hightower

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