The Ohio State University at Newark Assistant Professor of Geography Kenneth D. Madsen, Ph.D., says presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is a short-term solution to a long-term issue. Madsen studies borders and bordering from the perspective of political and cultural geography.
“A wall has already been built in many places but it just re-routes migrants and drug smuggling,” says Madsen. “It addresses only a symptom, not the root causes of why people migrate or consume drugs and become addicted. If we have success in stopping migration through building fences and hiring more law enforcement in one place then it simply shifts to other areas. Similarly, success in stopping drug trafficking often simply means we begin to have problems with domestic methamphetamine production or pain killer addictions.”
Madsen was recently interviewed by the Christian Science Monitor and the New Republic for articles on the topic of border walls. He says one of the reasons Americans are responding to Trump’s proposal is that a physical wall makes people feel like something is being done to address immigration and drug smuggling from Mexico.
“Border barriers are tangible and highly visible manifestations that something is being done. Whether it’s effective or not is a whole other issue,” says Madsen. “The idea of a wall provides a certain level of reassurance to a country and its population. However, because the reassurance is not very deep, the call for more fences continues to resonate with voters if given enough fuel by politicians running for office.”
News reports indicate that Trump’s proposal is sparking an increase in migrants crossing the border now before an expanded Trump Wall gets built. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data shows 150,304 migrants were detained trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border between October and February, up 24 percent from the same period last year. Madsen states that this is a common phenomenon any time anti-immigration rhetoric increases.
“People will find a way around a wall,” said Madsen. “That is not the only issue though. There are also significant environmental challenges to fully fencing the U.S.-Mexico border. There are mountains and rivers and therefore flooding and erosion problems to consider. In the push to build fences a few years ago, it was only made possible by waiving a wide variety of environmental and cultural protections.”
Madsen teaches courses in World Regional Geography; The Geography of North America; and Space, Power and Political Geography. Madsen has a Ph.D. in Geography from Arizona State University.
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