Border Security: An Unnecessary Distraction

President Trump first uttered the now infamous “build the wall” line in the fall of 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona, before he won the presidential election and placed his left hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States, ready to serve the nation. But now, after two years, the longest government shutdown in the history of America, and a national emergency declaration that skirts the edges of the Constitution, no new barriers have been built.

As the interests of American citizens are shoved aside in favor of President Trump’s single-minded pursuit of a wall, the necessity of additional barriers at the border continues to decrease and the significance of other national issues continues to grow. The President should give up on building a border wall and focus on issues that actually matter.

Every high school student knows that when you come across a problem on a math test you do not know how to solve, you do not spend all of your time trying to solve it. You skip it and come back later. Although governing a nation is very different from a math test, the same basic principle applies: spending excessive amounts of time on a difficult problem is unproductive, especially when there are still many remaining unsolved problems.

After the shutdown, the President received only $1.375 billion of the $5.7 billion he had requested for border security, and that number had already fallen considerably from his initial $25 billion request. None of these efforts have brought Trump anywhere closer to constructing a border wall, and the Trump administration has already expended too much time and energy on this issue. At this point, the debate over the wall is limiting Congress’ ability to govern. Trump should instead move on to other policies that have a chance of passing in Congress.

Securing the border is not as necessary as the President claims. The “national security threat” posed by the border has been declining over the past few years. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the number of border apprehensions has decreased from 1.6 million in 2000 to only 300,000 in 2017. The cost-benefit analysis simply does not favor increased spending on a wall. The idea appeals to people because it offers a concrete, physical solution. However, a wall is an extravagant solution to a diminishing problem.

President Trump’s pursuit of the wall draws national attention away from other important issues facing the United States and incorrectly assigns greater significance to the issue of border security. The extensive coverage of both the government shutdown and the national emergency in national news outlets redirects the focus of the American people away from more pressing issues.

Although the congressional deadlock that fueled the government shutdown is over, over a month of time was wasted in what could have been a valuable opportunity to make strides in other pressing issues, such as climate change, gun control, infrastructure, health care, or even immigration. Every second spent arguing over a border wall is time taken away from the real issues.

The constant fight over border security hurts American citizens more than any threat posed by the border. While lawmakers were bickering over border security during the government shutdown, the American economy lost $11 billion, $3 billion of which will never be recovered. In addition, almost one million government employees, many of whom live paycheck-to-paycheck, were temporarily unemployed.

Not only were government employees affected, but the American people were harmed as well. When airport security was understaffed and unpaid, the shutdown placed the safety of the American people at risk. During the same time, there were very few reports among national press outlets of problems from the border. Continuing to fight over border security cannot be justified if the arguments are harming more people than is the problem itself.

Even the “progress” achieved by the government has not been very progressive. After the government shutdown ended, Stephen Colbert, host of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, said, “We are celebrating – or supposed to be celebrating – that [the government is close] to a deal to achieve the absolute minimum: having a government!”

The numerous consequences of Trump’s quest for a border wall have proven that continuing this fight is a waste of time. Common sense dictates that Trump should drop the issue. For the sake of the sanity and security of the American people, Trump must give up.