P.J. Martinez | Contributing Writer
P.J. Martinez is a philosophy student at UNT. The following article is his response to the column, “What President Trump’s wall actually means.”
Ms. Reed concedes that President Donald Trump’s proposed wall will be inefficient, wasting millions in tax dollars and will do nothing to curb undocumented immigration to the U.S. These are both true, and those facts disclose the obvious racism underlying the wall. The wall is not useful as a symbolic representative of the law. The wall is a symbolic gesture to re-inscribe a boundary between us and them.
The wall was a campaign promise that was aimed at those whose economic anxiety manifests itself as racism. True, there are those who are suffering because of globalization. But instead of blaming economic elites that benefited from shipping their jobs overseas, automating or paying lower wages to undocumented immigrants, they displace that anxiety onto immigrants from Mexico.
Yes, it is bad that American workers can’t compete when employers would prefer to pay lower wages to undocumented immigrants, or even immigrants on work visas. Why then would immigrants be scapegoated, instead of employers who benefit from lower wages? This is exploited labor, and undocumented workers are not living a lavish lifestyle at the expense of American workers.
Here’s a line in the sand: the wall is racist and those supporting its construction are racist. If it is true that the wall will accomplish nothing in the service of national security, then why engage in a discussion about safety? Why does it matter that you want to feel safe? Ms. Reed is asking us to make an emotional concession to her, and others like her, that will disproportionately impact people of color.
Ms. Reed says that non-citizens don’t respect the country the same way citizens do. This generalization is baseless. This claim echoes Trump’s campaign rhetoric that masterfully exploited fear of others, painting the U.S. as besieged by immigrants committing heinous crimes. This ignores the consensus that immigrants commit less crimes compared to U.S. citizens, according to decades of census data and figures from the U.S. Department of Justice. Maybe she meant undocumented immigrants have more respect for the country.
People cross the border without documentation because the system is broken. It privileges people with wealth and it is a matter of survival. Undocumented immigrants are largely coming from countries ravaged by the same economic forces hurting American workers, such as automation and stagnating wages with no minimum wage protections. Their movement is justified, and we have a moral obligation to take them in.
The law is not neutral. Current immigration policy is immoral and should not be revered. Ms. Reed concedes the system is broken and inefficient, but she doesn’t call for legislation to resolve that and she defends the wall on symbolic grounds. Mr. Trump similarly has not called for legislation to fix the immigration system. He maintains the wall will be built and has overseen an increase in para-military raids that undermine police-civilian relationships.
This discloses the bad faith I’ve experienced when talking to Trump supporters. This is not about safety. This is not about the law. It is about race. This should compel conservatives to do some soul searching. If we begin with the premise that the wall will not increase national security – the truth – then your insecurity about immigration is insecurity about people who look different.
Featured Image: This is a Mexico-United States barrier at the border of Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, California. The crosses represent migrants who died in the crossing attempt. Some identified, some not. A surveillance tower is in the background. Tomas Castelazo.