An image of the mountains from a lookout at Big Bend National Park in Texas.

Thoughts on The Wall

By Kaitlyn Benacquisto
Blog Content Contributor

I was recently in Austin for a conference, and got the opportunity to see a screening of USA TODAY’s documentary The Wall. In short, USA TODAY created a not only a documentary, but a big collaborative project, to answer the question, “What would a border wall really look like?” in response to President Trump’s election promise of such a wall. Reporters and film crews spoke with land and business owners near the border, law enforcement, and immigrants. The result is an 80-minute Pulitzer-winning documentary that I wish every American would watch as soon as possible.

This is an image of one of the pages from the print guide to USA TODAY’s “The Wall.” It includes pictures and summaries of the major stories and topics that they covered.
This is a copy of the print guide to “The Wall.” It features summaries of major stories and a guide to discussing the border wall with others. Photo by Kaitlyn Benacquisto.

The film opened my eyes to all of the effects that a border wall would have, both good and bad. When I thought about the wall previously, I mostly considered President Trump’s promise, and the stricter immigration laws that have since ensued. I never put any thought into the logistics of building a wall, or how it would affect America aside from the obvious. It occurs to me now how foolish I was to not consider these things, but ignorance is bliss.

It began in Texas where most land and business owners expressed their disdain for the wall. They did not want their view of the mountains to be blocked by an ugly fence, or for their land to be split in half by a wall, the other side unreachable.

One rancher spoke about the six bodies he had found on his land over the years. Seven bodies, if you count the border patrol agent who died in a shootout with drug smugglers, supplied with guns from Arizona. The agent’s family is still waiting for the truth to be released in papers that the government holds in secrecy. The family supports the building of the wall. The dangers at the border are too high.

In Arizona, there are stretches of desert for dozens of miles along the border, and one stretch that less than a dozen immigrants were counted crossing in the last year. Illegal immigration apprehension rates are the lowest they’ve been in almost four decades, despite the fact that the border patrol has grown significantly. There had not been, and still has not been, a cost-benefit analysis done for the construction of the wall. Are the millions of dollars it’s going to take to build a wall going to be worth the few that it will stop in isolated places? Border patrol agents spoke of the dangers of the border, and the safety that a wall would bring. Construction workers and engineers tested out four prototypes of possible building material, menacingly large structures. They had to include features to prevent attempting crossers from digging under or going over. A human smuggler that was interviewed said that the wall would not stop immigrants from coming over. It would help his business, however, because he will be able to charge more. These are the realities of the wall.

USA TODAY created <em>The Wall</em> not to promote one side or the other, but to educate everyone so that we can all have a national conversation. The entire project includes an interactive map, podcasts, virtual reality, and interviews, and can be found here. Learning more about the wall, or other controversial topics in politics and elsewhere, will empower you to join the national discussion. There is no greater power than knowledge. Finally, as put in <em>The Wall,</em> at the end of the day, we are all people, sharing a common humanity. It’s more important now than ever to remember this.

Featured image by Kaitlyn Benacquisto.

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