President Donald Trump has flexed his executive muscles through an executive order calling for the construction of the U.S.-Mexican border wall, according to the Washington Post. Some BYU-Hawaii students said they agree with Trump’s plan because they believe it will help the economy and improve security, while others worried it would be too expensive and create prejudice.
Zoe Rounseville, a freshman peacebuilding major from Arizona, said she’s less than positive about Trump’s action. “I understand Trump’s initial concern of an overflow of illegal immigrants in the United States,” she said. “However, I think there are a lot other ways to enforce legal immigration without building a wall, like Social Security cards with strict sanctions or a tamper-proof national ID. Not only will it cost a fortune, but there still isn’t any promise that people won’t climb over it or blow a hole through it. A wall will require constant surveillance and upkeep, which just means more money.”
Blake Fisher, a senior Pacific Island studies major from Texas, said he supports the wall. “I am for [the wall]. It will be there to improve security and limit illegal immigrant traffic. Illegal immigrants come and take advantage of the systems that we have in place. Do they do so maliciously? No, I do not believe so. I am in cultural studies and am very compassionate and empathetic towards the plight of our international neighbors. I want to help them, but they do put quite a strain on our economies. By providing healthcare, welfare, jobs, education, police protection, and other benefits to them, we use large amounts of our capital to support them without them participating in the taxes which fund these programs.”
Political Science Professor Dr. Troy Smith rationalized, “I think the point of the wall is more a symbolic exercise. It makes the claim and statement that America has walls and boundaries and that these borders matter. Probably something more similar will happen where they will build part of it then call it good; although Trump seems pretty dedicated to fulfilling these campaign promises.”
According to CNBC, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell estimated the total cost of Trump’s wall will be somewhere in the $12-$15 billion range. To contrast, a report published by the National Academy of Sciences titled “The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration” says, “Immigration drains the government, sapping as much as $296 billion a year from federal, state and local taxpayers while depressing wages, at least in the short run.”
Lauren Gale, a freshman biology major from Texas, said she is concerned with the wall even though she’s Republican. “I think the money that’s going into creating this wall would be better spent in the vetting process and reforming how immigration works. That’s what I would prefer seeing my taxes going towards, improving the immigration policy.”
Rounseville worried the wall would create prejudice. She said, “There are psychological effects building a wall will have on our generation and generations to come. It feeds a negative ‘us vs. them’ attitude.”
In contrast, Fisher said, “It’s not just a wall. It’s a symbol, a deterrent, and one of the many steps that are necessary to protect the rights of born citizens, naturalized citizens, and legal immigrants alike.”
Shawn Pahulu, a senior information technology major from Hauula, said, “I feel like border control is a good thing, not necessarily as a symbol of hate or racism, but exclusivity and safety. People should have the chance to enter the country but legally and without having to compromise [safety].”
President Trump said the wall will be funded by Mexico, but Mexican President Pena Nieto said, “I have said time and again, Mexico will not pay for any wall.”
Gale said she doesn’t see how the wall will be funded in a diplomatic or professional banner. “I think this will cause a rift between the U.S. and Mexico... So ultimately, it will just cause the U.S. to go into even more debt, which is what they’re trying to prevent in the first place.”
There are alternative methods for having Mexico finance the wall, Smith said. He said, “Mexico is not going to deliver a check to America for the cost of the wall. However, there are a number of potential ways America could set up procedures to get some out of Mexico.
“You could tax remittances. That’s the money sent out of people here back to their families back in Mexico. You could create tariffs on products sent from Mexico into the United States. Some Republicans are talking about a tax adjustment that taxes consumption on imports. However, in the end who pays things like tariffs, it comes back around to the consumer.”
A recruit for the U.S. Army, Gale said, “There are some ways that immigrants can and should come into the U.S. legally. Some people I know have gained their legal citizenship through joining the U.S. military.
“I think Trump has some good intentions, the biggest one being trying to save money through stopping illegal immigration. It’s important to address that we do have an illegal immigration problem, and Trump is the first to really fight to change that.”
Coming from a family of immigrants, Louisette Waiane, a sophomore social work major from Vanuatu, said, “My Grandpa was an immigrant from New Caledonia to Vanuatu. For me, I am so grateful that my family was able to migrate to a different island with a whole new culture and group of people. I was able to go back into my history and learn about both cultures. I think it’s important to celebrate your heritage and culture, and this is not what this wall will accomplish. America is known around the world to be a haven for immigrants, but building this wall proves otherwise.”
Several conservatives view the spark in immigration interest coming from within the media, said Smith. “There is an identity of being American, and that identity is defined by the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Anyone [from] any culture can become an American.
“In America, it’s one of the few countries where the identity is shaped on ideals and values. The problem is that if you let in too many outsiders too quickly, you dilute that identity of America. However, Smith also said, “What unites America is this enormous amount of diversity under these similar ideals and principle. So the problem for conservatives with immigration is really assimilation.”
NOTE: This story's online publishing was delayed because it was featured in the March 2017 print issue.