Trump’s border wall will not “make America great again”

By Nazwa A. Khalid, Advocacy Intern for the Americas and Ryan Mace, Grassroot Advocacy Refugee Lobbyist, Amnesty International USA

As Americans across the country prepared for the holiday, Senate Republicans unveiled a bill that proposed using a staggering $1.6 billion in taxpayer money to start building the U.S.-Mexico border wall that President Donald Trump made his rallying cry throughout the 2016 presidential campaign. As we approach the December 8th deadline for Congress to fund the U.S. Government, negotiations have been underway to develop a solution for Dreamers — immigrants who have lived in the U.S. since childhood and, through no fault of their own, have no permanent immigration status. Over the past few weeks, hundreds of thousands of people across the country have been ramping up the pressure to protect the 700,000 dreamers whose futures ‘hang in the balance.’

The outcome doesn’t look promising. Congressional Republicans may seek to force through a short-term funding bill without providing any solution at all for Dreamers. This is shameful considering well over 90 percent of Dreamers are currently employed, and pay more than $1.4 billion in federal taxes. Right now, this young and aspiring population is left with the threat of being thrown back into the shadows, and worse, subject to deportation from the only country they have ever known.

Tossing the fate of thousands of Dreamers aside, Congress instead has shown every willingness to move forward on funding the border wall.

Documents released in early November divulged shocking details of the Trump Administration’s plan for the border wall in South Texas. Of the nearly 2,000-mile border with Mexico which the Administration seeks to build there wall, 33 miles will fall along the Rio Grande River. One segment of the wall will tear through a dam, compromising both flood mitigation measures and drinking water quality. Further, construction will cut through private land, raising concerns about how the Administration will proceed considering there are still 320 unresolved cases in the Rio Grande Valley from a previous attempt to build a wall there.

In addition, the wall would negatively affect Native American nations in the southern border region, splitting their territory and desecrating their sacred sites. Congress has yet to obtain consent from the affected tribal nations — violating their rights.

The wall would also prevent those fleeing unimaginable violence and hardship from seeking protection at the U.S. border. Amnesty International has documented large numbers of Central Americans, particularly children, fleeing rape, torture, and gang violence in their home countries. Many of these children faced grave threats to their lives if they stayed. If the wall is built, these women, children, and families — whom the U.S. has a legal obligation to protect — will face yet another barrier to safety and protection. Instead. they will find the United States’ doors closed.

One may ask, how does this wall — which risks poisoning our water, violating international law and failing to protect Americans — “make America great again”?

The answer? It doesn’t.

For years, countries around the world have been establishing physical barriers to prevent people from moving across their borders. Amnesty International research has shown that such barriers do not deter people from seeking asylum from violence, but rather motivate the creation of new, far more deadly migration routes that further benefits human trafficking networks.

Since President Trump announced the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), the issues of the Dream Act and the border wall have become intrinsically linked. The current understanding is that Republicans could allow some version of the Dream Act to pass only if Democrats approve the Republican-led border security bill. This negotiation leverages the fates of those who have been in the U.S. for most of their lives against the futures of those fleeing unspeakable violence now and into the future. Members of Congress must reject this deal. No population should ever be used as a bargaining chip.

Amnesty International has been urging members of Congress to oppose measures harmful to border communities, asylum-seekers, and Dreamers by passing a clean Dream Act — one that allows for a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and contains no additional “border security” measures that would endanger people seeking humanitarian protection in the U.S. and violate the human rights of people living in U.S. border communities.

On December 6th, thousands of people will rally on Capitol Hill to demand a clean Dream Act before the end of the year. Amnesty International USA urges you to join this demonstration — wherever you are — and to call your Members of Congress and ask them to support a clean Dream Act as well as oppose any appropriations measures that would place the lives of border communities, asylum-seekers, and Dreamers in jeopardy.

The futures of those already here, and those yet to come, hang in the balance.