Image taken on April 21, 2011 shows wooden crosses on the border wall between Mexico and the United States in Tijuana city, Mexico. On Jan. 25, 2017, U.S.President Donald Trump signed an executive order for a border wall to be built, but Center for Latin American Monetary Studies (CEMLA) estimated that migration from Mexico has been slowing down since 2008 after growing from 1990 to its peak in 2007. (Xinhua/Guillermo Arias)
by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Donald Trump is continuing his plan to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border in a bid to stem illegal immigration, but experts said whether the wall will work remains an open question.
During his campaign, Trump made border security one of his main platforms, repeatedly promising to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border to stop the flood of illegal migrants who head into the U.S. every day.
Currently, there are around 11 million migrants living illegally in the U.S., and the problem of America's broken immigration system has been an issue causing bitter partisan rivalry in recent years.
Advocates of the wall say it will help keep out unfair competition for jobs in an economy where millions of Americans remain unemployed or underemployed. Supporters of the wall say illegal immigration drives down wages. And despite some economists' claims that Americans don't want the jobs that illegal migrants perform, others say those who've been unlucky in the job hunt will jump at any chance they can get for work.
Tiffiany Howard, professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, told Xinhua it's difficult to make predictions about the impact of the wall, since the concept has not been fully formed into legislation.
Indeed, it remains unknown whether Trump's wall will actually be a wall, or whether the president will add extra fencing across the 2,000 mile frontier.
"If it's an actual wall and there are border agents on the wall, it could potentially reduce the number of those who are entering into the country from Mexico. But at the same time we have to remember that there are tunnels between Mexico and the United States, so that's another route that undocumented individuals are able to enter the United States," Howard said.
So it may decrease illegal immigrants from entering the country for a moment, but there are alternative ways in which to enter the United States," she said, arguing that a wall could cause an initial dip in the number of undocumented individuals crossing the border, which would later return to normal levels.
Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua that the U.S. has a border with Mexico that is several thousand miles long. "It is impractical and prohibitively expensive to build a wall along the entire border," he said.
"If there is a wall, smugglers simply will build tunnels underneath it. It will be very difficult to finance the construction, and estimates already suggest it will cost 20 billion (U.S. dollars)," West said.
Moreover, at a time when domestic programs are facing major cuts, it is not clear that the U.S. public will believe the high costs of the wall would be worthwhile. Many people would prefer that public money be spent on education or healthcare, West said.
Experts also said the wall could harm the U.S.-Mexican relations, especially since Trump has said many times that he would get Mexico to pay for the wall.
Last month the White House said it would raise billions of U.S. dollars for the wall by imposing a border tax on Mexican goods entering the United States. The controversy led to a cancellation of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto's planned meeting with Trump at the White House.
West said a wall would not be good for U.S.-Mexican relations because it creates a major barrier, and Mexicans already have expressed anger over the possibility of building a wall. Such a construction would signal major barriers between the two countries and a vast gulf in terms of how the two countries see the situation.
Ana Rosa Quintana, Heritage Foundation's Latin America analyst, was optimistic that both the U.S. and Mexico are committed to advancing the bilateral relationship despite challenges.
"Both recognize the need to secure and modernize the border. Significant infrastructure updates are necessary to protect both countries and also facilitate commerce," Quintana said.
Another problem Trump wants to solve is the massive amount of illegal drugs flowing over the border from Mexico into the United States.
But West countered that a wall will not stop the flow of drugs over the border, as smugglers will simply tunnel under the wall or switch to boats as a way to move around a wall.
"The situation a few years from now is not likely to be any better than it is today," West said.