Ever since his days on the election campaign trail the US president, Donald Trump, has assured voters of his intentions to build a wall along the US border with Mexico. He reiterated this promise during the 2019 State of the Union, and then declared a state of emergency soon after in order to access funding that Congress had rejected. It is now included on Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign website as part of a broader agenda to curb immigration.
Opponents of Trump’s border wall have dismissed the project as politically self-serving and financially frivolous. But arguments against the border wall have primarily focused on the cost to US taxpayers, suggesting economics as the most compelling framework through which a border wall project could be shot down.
Some others have focused on the environmental impact a border wall might have on the habitats and migration flows of North American wildlife.
It seems that many have avoided discussions of the moral issues raised by the border project and its long-lasting consequences for human civilisation. By contrast, Trump doesn’t rely on fiscal responsibility to justify his project, stressing his administration’s “moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of […] citizens.”
But it is the moral costs of the border wall that should raise the greatest concern for the world at large. In my study on the lasting impact of border walls on society, I examined centuries of history and politics to uncover the consequences of the ancient walls surrounding Damascus on present-day Syrian society.
Those Roman walls, built around the 3rd century AD were intended to protect the city and its inhabitants from invaders. They surrounded the city, allowing inhabitants to enter and exit at seven points, the famous seven gates of Damascus. In 749 AD, Abu Abbas al-Saffah destroyed the walls during his overthrow of the Umayyad Caliphate, leaving only a small portion that extended from the Bab Touma gate to the Bab al Salam gate.
Today, long after they were destroyed, the Roman walls continue to have an effect on the structure of Syrian society, dictating marriages, business networks, and many other elements of socio-economic status. There are websites which list the family names of notables who historically resided “within” the city walls, bestowing an enduring distinction on generations of Syrians born with last names like the one my mother bore.
These contemporary practices suggest that the Roman walls continue to divide society along the lines of “Jouwwa” (inside) and “Barra” (outside), discriminating against those who live beyond their boundaries as “other”.
In a recent book chapter, I argue that walls act as communication devices that symbolise belonging or otherness to the communities that reside within and outside their bounds. As the archaeologist Oliver Creighton has commented:
The image of the walled city might outwardly be one of enclosure, cohesion, and privilege, equally important but underestimated is the enduring role of walled heritage in excluding […] populations.
Walls communicate protection and social cohesion to those living inside their bounds. They also symbolise a community’s “worthiness” of protection. By contrast, people beyond their bounds are deemed unworthy of protection. More importantly, they become a dehumanised part of the landscape that the internal “we” must be protected from.
This distinction was apparent when Trump stated that his administration was intent on ending “illegal immigration and putting the ruthless coyotes, cartels, drug dealers and human traffickers out of business.”
Most alarmingly, the dehumanisation of populations outside the boundaries of walls threatens violence towards these communities. It also impedes their movement into the centre, criminalising their mobility. As such, the plans to build a border wall – and the global proliferation of walls including between India and Bangladesh, and on the Hungarian border – suggests an ever-increasing militarisation of border crossing and mobility, with lethal consequences for migrants across the globe.
As legal expert Jaya Ramji-Nogales has said of global migration regimes, the world needs “alternate approach to global migration law”. This must begin by using evidence to challenge the escalating militarisation of border crossings in order to advocate for mobility as a fundamental human right that should not be curtailed by walls or borders.
It is telling that we acknowledge migration as a necessary part of life for most organisms on earth. Zoologists and conservationists trace the migration patterns of different land animals, birds and fish. Yet the approach to discussions on global migration flows fails to seriously consider migration as crucial to human civilisation. That needs to change.
Trump admitted on live TV he will ‘terminate’ Social Security and Medicare if reelected in November
President Donald Trump on Saturday afternoon openly vowed to permanently "terminate" the funding mechanism for both Social Security and Medicare if reelected in November—an admission that was seized upon by defenders of the popular safety net programs who have been warning for months that the administration's threat to suspend the payroll tax in the name of economic relief during the Covid-19 pandemic was really a backdoor sabotage effort.
Announcing and then signing a series of legally dubious executive orders, including an effort to slash the emergency federal unemployment boost by $200 from the $600 previously implemented by Democrats, Trump touted his order for a payroll tax "holiday"—which experts noted would later have to be paid back—but said if he won in November that such a cut would become permanent.
‘Executive order stunt no substitute for real relief’: Trump trashed for ‘legally dubious’ COVID-19 aid order
"An executive order stunt is no substitute for real relief that meets the scale of the economic and public health crisis that is currently facing Americans. It is shameful that Senate Republicans and the president are refusing to work to pass the HEROES Act on behalf of the American people."
That is how a coalition of progressive advocacy groups and labor unions—including the American Federation of Teachers, Care in Action, Community Change Action, Greenpeace, Indivisible, MoveOn, and SEIU—responded after President Donald Trump announced Friday evening is preparing a series of executive orders after high-level talks between his Republican administration and Democratic leaders in Congress essentially collapsed with no agreement on what experts agree is an urgently needed economic relief package amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Republicans paid huge, strange sums to Facebook and a mystery company for ‘list acquisition’
After reporting essentially no payments to Facebook for about three years, the Republican National Committee paid the social media company $5.5 million for "list acquisition" between September and November 2019, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
This article first appeared in Salon.
The RNC has also paid about $5 million for contact lists to a mystery company created in January, including a million-dollar buy on the day the Trump campaign sent 88 targeted ads to Facebook users featuring images similar to Nazi iconography.