As the United States’ government continues to remain shutdown people are questioning the impacts that the border wall debate is having on the country. Economic costs, national park protection, food safety and travel status are all rising concerns in the United States, but what about concerns regarding the impact that will result from continuing to perpetuate the notion that immigrants are unwanted in the United States?
Regardless of whether or not President Trump receives his desired project funding for a border wall, there is already a security threat facing both the United States and Mexico.
Borders go far beyond just simply creating specific geographic spaces, they also create groups of people that share identities and culture. Identity in and of itself is not a problem as many people take pride in their identities – and the social bonds identity brings. The problem arises when identities are not personally constructed and are instead imposed upon groups by a group in power. Borders have a strong relation to this identity creation as borders create separate states that are each assigned identities, with some states being assigned more power than others. Historically, this identity construction from borders has had devastating impacts as it leads to violence and war as ethnic groups clash and there are disputes over who has the power to access resources and land.
The United States has had a strong influence on the identity formation of Mexico and South America by imposing a specific set of traits on southern immigrants that villainises and criminalises individuals attempting to enter the country, while simultaneously degrading immigrants who settle in the United States from southern countries because they do not fit the American ideal. As long as the border wall remains a heightened political debate, the ideas surrounding the political discourses will continue to feed into the construction of separate states, identities, and groups of people which may have serious consequences for the future of both countries.
By studying this history of conflict that has risen out of borders we are presented with a perspective on the US-Mexico border wall debate that should be taken into serious consideration. Take for instance the bloodshed that has been seen between the North and South Kivu Provinces on the Eastern border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This border area saw violent conflict arise as ethnic groups clashed due to the marginalization of certain people, and the tensions that arose at the border as different ethnic groups try to obtain resources around the area. Then there is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has seen contestation over identity and borders, such as disputes over which ethnic groups control certain resources or have ownership of Jerusalem. Conflict has also spilled over the border of Burma and Bangladesh, as Burmese refugees seek asylum in Bangladesh only to find ethnic tensions when entering an area where they were oppressed and alienated. These and numerous other instances of identity-related border conflict paint a grim picture for the future of the United States as President Trump and members of the Republican Party continue to impose an inferior and threatening identity on southern immigrants.
The formation of borders throughout history has led to devastating wars, genocides, and political turmoil at the expense of civilians. These tragedies are a result of struggles over power with clashes occurring between groups of people who have been constantly marginalised by those in power and seen as unwanted aliens threatening the identity of a powerful state. The more time the U.S Government spends on the border wall debate, the more they feed into this narrative of creating distinct differences between people in the United States and those south of the border. To understand the impact that current border policy will have, we need to look at past instances of conflict as a result of borders. President Trump is drawing a picture that labels southern immigrants as a threat to the United States, but perhaps it is the United States’ destructive construction of identities and reluctance to humanise immigrants that will be the biggest security threat to the country.