The first time I saw it was from the window of a bus. The rusted steel wall cuts into the side of a mountain before descending into a valley, where it winds along the course of the Rio Grande between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez. It’s one of the most militarized sites along the U.S.-Mexico border, where the Department of Homeland Security, under orders from the Trump administration, is refusing to admit refugees and asylum-seekers from Mexico and Central America. The result is that thousands of migrants are now camping along the bases of Juárez’s three international bridges, enduring squalid conditions as they wait to hear back from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Speaking before a group of about 325 activists, academics, journalists, students, and members of religious communities from more than seventy organizations, Msgr. Arturo Bañuelas, of the Diocese of El Paso, bluntly denounced President Trump’s border wall as “a monument to white supremacy.” Not only is the wall absolutely unnecessary for border security (there’s been a fence there for decades); it’s also a colossal waste of taxpayer money. As Hope Border Institute’s Dylan Corbett has pointed out, the millions of dollars already spent by the federal government on a small portion of replacement fencing in New Mexico would be enough to double the annual salary of every Guatemalan coffee farmer, improving their standard of living and avoiding forced migration.
But in the face of recent legal victories by its opponents—including El Paso County itself—the administration has doubled down on its “Remain in Mexico” and “metering” policies, twin anti-immigrant strategies that have effectively halted the entry of all asylum-seekers along the southern border.