Symptoms and Causes / by Karie Luidens


How does anyone convince himself that a border wall would stop all activity on the U.S.-Mexico border?

How does he not see that it’s the bluntest, dumbest band-aid smacked atop a massively complex and organic situation?

If illegal border crossings are the problem, then I guess a “powerful barrier” is the solution.

But they’re not. They’re a symptom.

The root causes of illegal border crossings: Decades of European colonialism and U.S. interventionism in Latin America setting up banana republics and impoverished undemocratic states. Years of economic exploitation wreaking havoc on local economic self-sufficiency, driving Latin Americans to seek work in the U.S. and U.S. employers to hire them with or without documentation. The War on Drugs fueling an increasingly ruthless ecosystem of cartels and trafficking to meet the demands of American black markets. Rising poverty and violence driving people to leave their homes in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua—even while the U.S.’s immigration policies restrict who can come legally and where they can cross safely.

Trump doesn’t even acknowledge any of these root causes, let alone address them. He talks as if steel fencing and militarized enforcement will simply stop people from trying to immigrate. We know that’s not the case; we know that desperate people take desperate measures. The U.S. has helped create desperate situations in these people’s home countries. They will continue to come.

The question isn’t whether a wall or fence will “fix” this symptom. It’s whether we’ll acknowledge the root causes that drive people to approach our southern border—and whether, when they arrive, we’ll greet asylum seekers and other would-be immigrants with a humane and efficient immigration system, or continue to inflame the region’s troubles and endanger people’s lives with bottlenecks and backlogs.