If you follow the news, you probably heard about the bold statements Pope Francis made during his visit to Mexico. In a beautiful tribute to the unity of mankind despite arbitrary border divisions, Francis celebrated Mass at the Mexican-US border. Reportedly, 200,000 Mexicans attended while 30,000 Americans watched him on the big screen at the Sun Bowl stadium, just across the border.
At a time when anger defines much of the discussion on immigration in the United States, Francis called for compassion. He described border crossing as a “journey laden with grave injustices: the enslaved, the imprisoned and extorted,” adding, “So many of these brothers and sisters of ours are the consequence of a trade in human beings.” Francis saluted the migrant rights groups, priests and lay people “often risking their own lives” to help people on the trail.
When Francis was asked to comment on Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the entire length of the border and deport millions of immigrants, he answered, “If he says these things, this man is not Christian.” In addition to the lack of compassion inherent in the border wall proposal, we also must consider the outrageous cost. 700 miles of additional border fencing is expected to cost upwards of $49 billion. Plus, we are already spending an estimated $10 billion a year (based on 2000-2010 numbers) in order to secure the U.S.-Mexico border. This includes various expenses such as the cost of deploying 1,200 National Guard troops to the border, which is $110 million per year, the average salary of a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent, which is $75,000—in 2010, there were 20,000 CBP agents deployed to the US-Mexico border, the cost of an X-ray machine to peer into cargo trains and trucks, each costs $1.75 million—of which the US uses 165. There is also the cost to employ drug-sniffing dogs, predator drones, and various other incendiaries.
Why do we, as taxpayers and lawmakers, insist on spending such an incredible fortune on measures to keep out desperate people who simply want a chance at a decent life? Why not spend those billions developing opportunities for our neighbors, so that children and adults alike will not feel the need to escape their countries? Why not invest in education, trade and entrepreneurial support in order to boost opportunities for individuals, grow their economies and, in turn, reap the benefits of stronger regional trade partners for the US?
When we step back and look at our immigration and border security priorities, the picture we get is of a society bent on wasting money to enforce inhumane ideals instead of making investments that would not only benefit our region but our own country, as well.
We must become a more compassionate, practical nation that seeks to build bridges rather than walls. It is time to kindle better relationships with the leaders and populace of the nations to the south. If we create rather than deny opportunities, we will benefit from the strength of our allies and trading partners.
It is time to unite the Americas. What do you think we can do to change the story regarding Latin American immigrants and US policy in their home countries? How can we change this conversation? Please let us know what you think.
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