The government is still in a state of partial shutdown. The President has made it clear that he has no intention of signing a bill reopening it until he gets 5 billion dollars in funding for a “wall” along the U.S. border with Mexico. He has backed down a few times, but seeing as this was one of his biggest campaign promises, he seems pretty dug in this time.

For that same reason, Democrats are all the more excited to use the entire situation as a way of making the President look bad.

We know the politics behind the “wall” (wall is in quotation marks because at this point it’s believed to be more of a fence), but what about the actual effectiveness of a physical barrier in deterring illegal immigration.

It was unsurprisingly difficult to find information that didn’t come tinged in political bias. In fact, I’m sure I won’t be able to keep my own biases out of this 100%. However, in the interest of finding adequate information, I reviewed “facts and figures” from both those in favor of a barrier and those opposed. Again, unsurprisingly, even their “scientific data” directly contradicted each other.

What We Have Now

What do you picture when you think of the southern border? Terms like open borders get thrown around a lot in political diatribes, but to call our current border situation open is nothing short of a flagrant lie.

Believe it or not, we already have around 653 miles of fencing along areas of the 2,000-mile long border. While this is less than half of the border, the Rio Grande serves as a natural barrier for much of the border not consisting of man-made fences. There are 25 ports where people can come and go legally and 30 border patrol stations.

In movies, the border is often depicted as being in the sticks away from everything. In some places that is the case. However, it also goes through cities, farms, mountains, and wildlife preserves.

The Effect of Man-Made Barriers

When fences were erected, the fenced area saw a decrease in people caught attempting to cross illegally. This led to increases in other, less guarded areas. It should be noted that fencing wasn’t the only change made that could have affected the numbers. There was also an increase in personnel. Nonetheless, this is at least evidence that physical barriers do in fact play a part.

That said, with physical barriers like fences come increases in tunnels. Moreover, this only deals with a specific type of illegal immigration.

The Cost

It is difficult (if not impossible) to pin down exactly how much taxpayer money is spent on illegal immigrants. Even the most conservative (the actual meaning of the word, not the political leaning) estimates put it well over the 5 billion the President wants for a wall/fence.

One huge problem with the math there though. In 2017 more illegal immigration took place do to overstayed visas than actual border hopping. That means that the bulk of illegal immigrants actually came here legally.

Beyond that, building along the Rio Grande would be nearly impossible, forcing the wall to be built deeper into U.S. territory. This would cause citizen’s private land to be seized by the government. Additionally, it would cut off access to the fourth largest river in the country.

At the End of the Day

The thing is, when people picture illegal immigration, they picture border hoppers. That makes a wall great optics (depending on what you’re trying to convey) without actually addressing the real problem.

The “wall” is more political than practical. Would it cut down on illegal border crossings? Almost certainly. Would it address the majority of illegal immigration? No.

But, none of that really matters. Most people have decided how they feel about it one way or the other, and it has little to do with math or science.

Don’t get me started on who’s supposed to pay for the thing.

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.