In every place and every era—from ancient China to East Germany—walls have created fractures, divisions, injustice. So when a politician announces the construction of a wall, the first question we should ask is: What is its purpose? And then: Will it make things better or worse?
On February 28, in his first speech to Congress, President Donald Trump affirmed his commitment to dismantling the criminal cartels that have spread drugs across the United States. He reiterated his commitment to the “great wall” along the Mexican border as a fundamental pillar of his strategy, guaranteeing that the wall will be “a very effective weapon against drugs and crime.”
It’s not the first time Trump has marketed his wall as an anti-narco measure. And it won’t be the last. However, anyone familiar with the power of the Mexican cartels knows this is a lie. The barrier, which already covers one-third of the border with Mexico, has not stopped the drugs or the cartels, and closing the gaps won’t change that. More effective and less expensive measures exist to combat the narcos, from better anti-money-laundering rules to legalizing drugs and thus tackling the dealers’ lifeblood. But a wall is symbolic, and it sends a message: We are working for you, and we are doing it concretely. You can see it, brick by brick.