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Soto: Trump’s wall will only worsen conditions on both sides

Isabella Soto, Assistant Opinion Editor

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I’m originally from a town called McAllen, Texas. My home is 9.1 miles from the international bridge that straddles the Mexican city of Reynosa and Hidalgo, Texas. While I’m now more than 1,400 miles away at Northwestern, my home felt painfully close when I read about President Trump’s executive order to begin construction on “the wall.”

Trump’s campaign promises are no longer ideas floating around the political sphere; they are concrete actions being taken by the leader of this country. It has been less than a week since he was sworn into office, yet it feels like an eternity.

On Monday, Trump signed executive orders that attacked reproductive health, both domestically and abroad, when he set his promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act in motion and signed an executive order defunding American-supported health institutions that perform or promote abortions in foreign nations. On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency was ordered to freeze all grants and must now submit all studies and data for review by Trump’s staff before publishing, as well as placing a social media gag order on the agency. On Wednesday, he made good on some of his main campaign promises, doubling down on his plans for a border wall between the United States and Mexico. He also plans to strip sanctuary cities of federal funding and set in motion immigration restrictions for seven majority-Muslim countries, implementing a 30-day halt on visas.

Moreover, the Economist’s Intelligence Unit now ranks the United States as a “flawed democracy” as opposed to its previous ranking as a “full democracy,” due to a rise in populism and a lower trust in the government.

We should be concerned, to say the least. It’s hard to not feel hopeless and dispirited as the barrage of executive orders slowly erodes our belief in a just and representative democracy. But we have to resist. And for me, resistance begins at home.

For those who weren’t aware, there is already a border fence in Texas. The fence spans 700 miles of the 1,900-mile border with Mexico, 1,254 of those miles being between Mexico and Texas. The Rio Grande Valley is one of the most biodiverse places in North America, with two major flyways for migratory birds converging along the border. This biodiversity contributes $463 million per year to the local economy, as avid birdwatchers frequently travel to the area. Increased militarization along the border is unnecessary, given that the Valley is already crawling with Border Patrol officials. On any given day, one can see more familiar green and white Border Patrol SUVs on the highway than actual police cars.

There has never been a moment where I have felt threatened in McAllen, despite the prevailing narrative that the border is a “lawless” and dangerous place. To those who insist the wall is our only protection against the false claims Trump has made about Mexican people, I ask you this: what does it say about the U.S. when children grow up along the border with iron bars looming over their swingsets, a symbol of our antagonism toward Mexico, and immigrants are denied safe haven in our country?

The current fence has already raised concerns about displacing the flora and fauna that are essential to South Texas, not to mention its impact on residents on both sides of the border. These effects will only be amplified by Trump’s supposed “impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful” wall. It will hurt my home. It will hurt this country. If we want to take action against the social forces threatening our country, we must resist the belief that immigrants are responsible for our deteriorating democracy. The only walls that should be going up are those to resist Trump’s ill-used executive power.

Isabella Soto is a Medill sophomore. She can be contacted at If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.