The House of Representatives Just Voted to Build President Trump’s Mexico Border Wall. Here’s What It Will Cost Us.
By Joanne Lin, Senior Managing Director of Advocacy and Government Relations, AIUSA
On July 27 the House of Representatives approved $1.6 billion for the construction of the southern border wall. A centerpiece campaign promise of Donald Trump, he first demanded that Mexico pay for the wall. When Mexico refused, the President started pressuring the U.S. Congress to pay for the wall. And the House has now approved $1.6 billion in U.S. taxpayers money to build the wall. Amnesty International USA vigorously opposes the southern border wall.
The border wall will have a devastating impact on the human rights of Native Americans and asylum seekers. The border wall will cut right through tribal lands, directly impacting the property and livelihood of several Native American Nations. Congress has not consulted in good faith with the affected Nations, which is a requirement under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (“UN Declaration). The National Congress of American Indians and the Legislative Council of the Tohono O’odham, the second-largest U.S. tribe by land holdings, have both passed resolutions opposing the construction of the border wall without tribal consent. Since Congress has not obtained the free, prior, and informed consent of affected Native American Nations, the House vote funding the border wall directly violates the UN Declaration.
Beyond Native Americans, the border wall will harm asylum seekers requiring U.S. protection. The U.S. has legal obligations to provide a fair asylum process in order to ensure that people are not returned to situations of persecution, torture, or death. Many of these asylum seekers are children and women who have fled sexual exploitation, domestic violence, and forced gang recruitment in the northern triangle region of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras). The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has documented that these groups have significant humanitarian protection concerns.
In its June 2017 report Facing Walls: USA and Mexico’s Violations of the Rights of Asylum Seekers Amnesty International found that people fleeing violence already face unlawful turnbacks at the U.S. border and often get locked up in immigration detention for prolonged periods of time. These harsh U.S. border practices already place countless asylum seekers at serious risk of return to trafficking, persecution, or death in their home countries. The construction of a border wall will place survivors of persecution and torture at even greater risk of danger.
By funding the border wall, the House has thrown $1.6 billion of U.S. taxpayers’ money down the drain, while setting the U.S. on a course that will harm Native Americans and endanger asylum seekers. Amnesty International USA looks to the Senate to reject this spending folly and to hold back on building a wall that will sacrifice the human rights of our first Americans as well as of those seeking U.S. protection.
Mallika Balakrishnan, Advocacy Intern for the Americas at Amnesty International USA also contributed to this post.