Illustration by Phoebe Hughes

Forum discusses border wall

A student-run economic forum explored the effects of border wall expansion

A student-run economic forum explored the impact of border wall expansion

Economics majors discussed a recently-released study regarding the effects of the 2006 Secure Fence Act at an open forum, held last Friday at Fiesta Grill and Cantina.

The Secure Fence Act added 548 miles of wall, fencing or other physical barrier to the existing barriers along the southern border. Carlos Rodgers was one of the two economics majors hosting the panel, and found much of the information in the study to be surprising.

“I was surprised that the impact per worker was so small,” Rodgers said. “The gain in wages felt by uneducated Americans is small compared to the wage reduction for college-educated Americans.”

The study, released last November, found that wall expansion harmed college-educated U.S. workers by $4.35 per person annually, and boosted the wages of uneducated Americans by 36 cents. The construction itself cost the nation $2.3 billion, or about $7 in taxes per person according to the study.

Economics professors, students and others gathered to discuss the economic effects of border barriers in the back of the Fiesta Grill and Cantina. | Photo by Jett Williams

Economically, Mexico didn’t benefit from the wall expansion either. The study found that educated Mexican workers lost roughly $2.99 in annual income, and less-educated Mexicans lost $1.34.

Estrella Corza, another economics major who attended the forum, recognized the ineffectiveness of walls as a solution.

“On both sides of the wall, there wasn’t progress,” Corza said. “No one benefited from this.”

In addition to being economically unfavorable, the study found that the wall expansion barely changed the number of people who illegally cross the border. According to the study, the new pieces of wall built after 2006 reduced the number of Mexicans living in the United States by just 0.6 percent, or about 82,650 people.

As the forum continued, it became clear that the wall was ineffective as a solution to the illegal immigration problem.

Attendee David B. joked, “Has anyone considered a moat?”

Nicola Matthews, an economics professor at HSU, stated what some people were thinking about halfway through the forum.

“Politicians often blame immigrants for the shrinking middle class. They are looking for someone to blame.”

Nicola Matthews

“Assuming calculations are correct, moving forward we don’t want to build more walls,” Matthews said. “Isn’t that the consensus?”

With that, the discussion moved to alternative solutions. Ideas like cracking down on illegal-immigrant-hiring businesses and guest-worker programs were floated, but the final consensus was that the best way to curb illegal immigration would be to improve the wages and quality-of-life in Mexico, so less people would feel the need to immigrate.

Despite being a charged topic the forum didn’t get heated or argumentative, and the participants saved political discussion until the forum was wrapping up. They acknowledged that many other factors like xenophobia, bias and racism play a role in the decision to build a wall.

“Politicians often blame immigrants for the shrinking middle class,” Matthews said. “They are looking for someone to blame. ‘Why is my family suffering?’”

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