The number to undocumented aliens in the United States has been decreasing, not increasing over the past decade. The majority of Americans don’t see a need to spend billions of dollars more on border walls. Yet, the government of the wealthiest nation on the planet is closed for business over arguments to spend money on said wall. What would the harm be to go ahead and spend money on the wall, even if it isn’t necessary nor even wanted by the majority?
Aside from claiming some sort of crisis where none exists, there is the negative impact on the environment. A recent scientific article published in Bioscience and endorsed by over 2,700 scientists lays out the case for opposing the wall.
The border between Mexico and the United states is in total 3,200 kilometers, about 2000 miles. As recently as January 15, William Barr, nominee for Attorney General said before the Senate Judiciary Committee that building a piece of wall here or there will only shift illegal traffic to those locales without a wall. If a wall is to have any effect it must be continuous from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. But even pieces of walls, fences, etc. has a negative effect on the movement of wildlife.
The borderlands region is home to over 1500 species of plants and animals, including 62 species listed as Critically Endangered, Endangered, or Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN.) Construction of any physical barrier entails not just the barrier itself but supporting structures such as roads, lighting, and operational bases. This disrupts the environment, destroys local vegetation, fragments the habitat. The one factor most critical in loss of biodiversity is loss of habitat.
In 2005 the Department of Homeland Security was given authority to override traditional laws protecting the environment, laws such as the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA.) Without these protections wall construction will run roughshod across what is otherwise pristine environments.
Many large mammals normally migrate across the border to and from breeding grounds and overwintering sites. These include both predator and prey species: bighorn sheep, gray wolf, pronghorn antelope, ocelot, and jaguar all have populations on both sides of the border. A wall would isolate and thereby fragment these population to the degree that they may not survive. Even more numerous impacted species are smaller mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and crustaceans.
Millions of acres of borderlands in the United States and Mexico are managed explicitly for biodiversity. Wall construction would disrupt bilateral agreements with Mexico in the Sonoran desert, Sky Islands region, Big Bend, and the lower Rio Grande.
If physical barriers are absolutely needed, they need to take into account the native biosphere. The barriers need to be constructed so that they are somehow permeable to movements of wildlife. Haste in construction is the enemy of biodiversity. Where construction must occur it should be done with thorough planning to avoid negative effects. In some cases it may be necessary to forego any barrier construction.
Dr. Bob Allen, Ph.D., is Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at Arkansas Tech University.