International Affairs

The USA-Mexico Barrier

The USA-Mexico Barrier
The Mexico-United States Barrier, also known as the Border Wall or the Mexico Wall, refers to a series of various barriers along the USA- Mexico border. This wall is to be built with a view to preventing illegal immigration from Mexico into the USA by crossing the border. The barrier has been described as not one single solid structure, but a discontinuous series of physical obstructions in the forms of “walls” and “fences”. Between these physical barriers, there would be installed various kinds of surveillance equipment such as electric fences, sensors, cameras and so on in order to prevent illegal and undocumented crossings. The total length of the continental border is 3, 145 kilometers and spans four states: California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Background The construction of the barrier began from 1994, under the presidency of Bill Clinton, as part of three larger processes or operations to tackle the transportation of illegal drugs and control immigration. These were known as Operation Gatekeeper in California, Operation Hold-the-Line in Texas, and Operation Safeguard in Arizona. The Secure Fence Act of 2006 under President George Bush authorized the construction of miles of fencing along the US-Mexico border, which covers a variety of terrains, including urban areas and deserts alike. The barrier is located on both urban and uninhabited sections of the border, areas where illegal crossings and drug trafficking have been observed in the highest concentration in the past. By May 2011, the Department of Homeland Security in the United States reported completing 1,044 km of fencing (99.5% of the 652 miles planned). The barrier consisted of 281 km of vehicle barriers and 560 km of pedestrian fence. The fencing includes a steel fence (varying in height between 18 and 26 feet). A report by the Government Accountability Office in 2016 affirmed that the government had completed the fence by 2015. Another report in 2017 noted that pedestrian fencing including secondary and tertiary fencing will also be added to the existing barrier. As a result of the construction of the barrier, there has been an increase in the number of people trying to cross areas that have no barrier or fence yet, which includes areas in the Sonoran Desert and the Baboquivari Mountain in Arizona. These immigrants cross fifty miles (80 km) of inhospitable terrain to reach the first road located in the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation. In March 2010, the Department of Homeland Security had announced that there would be a temporary stop to expand the virtual fence, which includes the surveillance and sensory systems beyond Arizona. Boeing Corporation is the contractor for building the barrier, and it has reported numerous delays and cost overruns. What is the present situation? President Donald Trump, throughout his Presidential Campaign in 2016, called for the construction of a much larger and fortified border wall, claiming that he would make Mexico pay for its construction in the event of his election to the post of President. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto had retorted saying that Mexico would not pay for the wall. •The Trump administration signed Executive Order 13767 in January 2017, which formally ordered the US government to begin construction of a border wall using existing federal funding. The actual construction of the wall, however, did not begin at this time owing to the large expense and lack of clarity on how the funding for the wall would be obtained. •In March 2018 the Trump administration established $1.6 billion from the United States Congress for projects at the border for previous designs of new and replacement walls. •From December 22, 2018 to January 25, 2019, the federal government of USA was partially shut down due to President Trump's declaration to veto any spending bill which did not include $5 billion in funding for a wall at the United States-Mexico border. •As of February 2019, contractors are preparing to construct $600 million worth of new barriers to replace the existing barriers along the south Texas section of the border wall, which the United States Congress had approved in March 2018. •President Donald Trump announced a national emergency on the 15th of February 2019 to fund the US-Mexico border without the approval of the US Congress. This step has invited a lot of criticism from the Democrats, as this emergency will allow the Trump administration to obtain money from elsewhere in the federal budget. Two lawsuits have been filed against the declaration of the National emergency. What are the controversies surrounding the Border Wall project? The construction of the wall, needless to say has generated a lot of controversy and criticism both at home and in the international community. Research has suggested that the building of the wall will not be effective in stopping illegal immigration or drug trafficking. Native American tribal communities will be dispersed into three different divided lands as a result of the construction of the wall. The border fence would also divide the campus of the University of Texas at Brownsville into two parts. •The border wall has been dubbed as a “death sentence” for the American National Butterfly Centre by ecologists and environmentalists. A significant portion of the reserve would go to Mexico after the construction of the wall, and it would greatly tamper with the local ecology which is likely to have a disastrous effect on the environment. •Environmental Tourism is the main generator of income in these areas, which will be severely affected in the event of construction of a wall. In December 2018, a challenge to the border wall construction at the National Butterfly Center was rejected by the United States Supreme Court. •The government of Mexico has vigorously condemned the Secure Fence Act of 2006. Mexico has also urged the United States to change its plans of constructing a wall across their shared border, claiming that it would lead to tremendous loss of wildlife and damage to ecology. Despite claims from the former Homeland Security Chief, Michael Chertoff, that the department would minimize the border wall’s impact on the environment and local ecology, critics in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas claimed that the fence would severely endanger species and the fragile ecosystems along the Rio Grande. Environmentalists and ecologists have expressed concern about butterfly migration corridors and the future of species of local wildcats, the jaguarundi, and the jaguar. More than 100 species of flora and fauna- some of which are already endangered- are threatened by the construction of the wall. This includes the jaguar, ocelot, Mexican wolf, pygmy owl, Sonoran pronghorn, thick-billed parrot and Quino checkerspot butterfly, among others. Experts believe that the construction of the wall will lead to a bottleneck in population and disrupt migration routes.

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