I recently completed a long essay for my writing class. Since I put a lot of time and research into my essay, I thought that I would share it on my blog. I based my essay on a question: How secure should the border be? The first part of the essay provides history and background about the U.S.-Mexico border. I found some interesting information that I wanted to share and will include the links in case you want to learn more details than I have included.
The history and background of the borders of the United States provide the context for understanding and analyzing the debate about securing them. The same security measures should be considered for both borders. However, this essay will consider only the southern border because it is at the center of the debate. Some of the issues involved in the discussion concern security, economy, and compassion. How secure should the border be in order to provide safety and security for all people?
There is no natural boundary line between the United States and Mexico besides the Rio Grande River, which divides Texas from Mexico. The western border was created on December 30, 1853, by a treaty known as the Gadsden Purchase. James Gadsden, the U.S. minister to Mexico, and General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, the president of Mexico, signed the treaty. The accord specified that the United States would purchase 45,000 square miles of land from Mexico for the price of $15 Million. The U.S. Senate revised the treaty four months later, reducing the land to 29,670 square miles and the price to $10 Million. The actual boundary line changed several times before settling into its current place with 1,933 miles of border. The boundary issue arose when the United States wanted to build a southern cross-continental railroad and determined the only acceptable route went through Mexican territory. Mexico wanted a border to settle some land issues and to stop Americans from entering Mexico illegally and inciting “rebellions in an effort to gain territory.” (“Gadsden Purchase, 1853-1854.” Office of the Historian - Milestones: 1830-1860.)
Even though the boundary between the United States and Mexico was determined in the mid-1800s, there were no efforts for approximately fifty years to enforce it. The U.S. Mounted Guards began to patrol the border to prevent illegal immigration in 1904. They patrolled the entire border from El Paso, Texas, to San Diego, California, in an effort to decrease the flow of Chinese illegal aliens who were “trying to avoid the Chinese exclusion laws.” (“Border Patrol History.” U.S. Customs and Border Protection.) Mounted Inspectors were added to the force in 1915, and military patrols and the Texas Rangers joined the effort intermittently.
The U.S. Border Patrol was established on May 28, 1924, and the agency received numerous assignments over the years. In the 1960s agents accompanied “domestic flights to prevent takeovers” of hi-jacked aircraft and “assisted other agencies in intercepting illegal drugs” (“Border Patrol History.” U.S. Customs and Border Protection.) Since September 11, 2001, the Border Patrol focuses on stopping terrorists, but “its overall mission remains unchanged: to detect and prevent the illegal entry of aliens into the United States.” (“Along U.S. Borders.” U. S. Customs and Border Protection.) The purpose of patrolling the border has always been security.
The first barrier along the border was a fence to “protect the fragile environment and livestock from the damage and disease brought by migrating animals” (Krasner, Caitlin. “History of the Border Fence.” National Border, National Park: A History of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.) The success of this fence led to thoughts of a barrier to stop human traffic. The border was completely shut down by agents during the “War on Drugs” in the 1960s. Illegal immigration increased dramatically after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect in 1994 because it “had the effect of devastating large sectors of the Mexican agricultural economy by depreciating crop prices” (Krasner 3). Fences were built and patrols increased in the major ports of San Diego and El Paso. These actions forced illegal immigrants into more remote areas where there were no fences and fewer patrols.
Since that time, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, increased pressure to close the border, and President George W. Bush signed the Secure Fence Act in 2006 that authorized and funded construction of 850 miles of fencing. As part of the Secure Fence Act some fencing was installed in the Yuma, Arizona, area. Just this year, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order in January 2017 to start construction on a wall along the border with available funds. Even House Speaker Paul Ryan claims Congress will appropriate more funds as needed.
At present, the border is well established and patrolled. Yet, increasing numbers of people continue to enter the U.S. illegally. The fenced portion of the border is mostly working as it should, and the fence will soon be extended with funds promised to lengthen it. However, a fence alone will not work 100% of the time as people will find their way under, over, or through it. There are numerous prongs in the solution to stopping illegal immigration with a barrier being only one of them. Other parts of the solution include revising NAFTA, working with Mexico and its southern neighbors to improve conditions in their nations, and limiting benefits to immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally. The next section will discuss some of the numerous issues involved with securing the southern border.