During a recent campaign rally in El Paso, Texas, President Trump claimed that the city had been transformed from “one of the most dangerous cities in the country to one of the safest cities in the country overnight” after “a wall was put up,” a statement that drew immediate criticism.
In fact, many fact-checking and mainstream media outlets highlighted the fact that apprehensions and crime rates in the sector were falling before a barrier was built and that the reductions were simply related to other law enforcement initiatives, not a wall.
While government data can certainly support those critiques, the news outlets failed to note the immeasurable benefits to citizens of simply having a barrier in the region, which should be a factor in border security discussions moving forward.
First, the mere presence of a border barrier in the sector improves the safety and security of American citizens. The physical structure of the wall serves as a deterrent and defines the boundary between Mexico and the United States, which prevents individuals, potentially dangerous individuals, from crossing the border illegally. If a migrant has the option of crossing the border where there is no barrier or at a juncture where there is a tall structure layered with concertina wire, it is safe to assume a migrant would select the first option.
Second, the wall itself enables Border Patrol personnel to focus their attention on dangerous criminal aliens as the wall serves as a first layer of security. If there were no wall in place, the Border Patrol would spend much more of their time patrolling remote areas instead of apprehending individuals that have already breached the border.
Lastly, the border barrier funnels individuals and vehicles into ports of entry, which means that they are screened more effectively and the risk of a previous criminally convicted individual or contraband entering the country is lowered. There is no data available to indicate what percentage of individuals come to ports of entry after being deterred by a barrier, but it’s reasonable to assume that an effective border barrier influences the choices made by criminals attempting to enter the country. More importantly, the inability to sneak into the country undetected may deter criminals and ineligible aliens from attempting to enter the country at all.
Border barriers remain an essential component in border security even if they are not the sole contributor in crime reduction. Even if one were to use data, one could see that after construction of the border barrier in El Paso in 2009, apprehensions in the region decreased for seven consecutive years. While other border technology has certainly contributed to this decrease, it would be remiss of critics to claim that the wall has not assisted in that trend.
Simply put, a barrier can bring many advantages, even if they cannot always be directly measured by data.