Is the Border Wall Immoral?

May 1, 2019 Updated: May 8, 2019


In recent months, opponents of the border wall proposed by President Donald Trump have called it immoral and unworkable. My response to these objections follows.


For several years, I moderated a philosophical discussion group that met in my home. We covered a broad range of topics such as the meaning of life and the nature of good and evil.

Even though the participants were intelligent and gentle, I still had three levels of security: (a) The doorman of my Manhattan apartment building had to contact me before the attendees were allowed to use the elevator; (b) there was a lock on my apartment door; and (c) each time the doorbell rang, I opened the door to verify the identity of the guest.

The majority of the participants differed from me in gender, religious background, political orientation, and national origin. I admitted everyone interested in attending, subject only to my apartment’s space limitations.

Like in my building, there would be doors on the proposed border wall. The most outrageous claim is that the proposed wall is racist when all it does is require an authorized entry. When people enter illegally, legal and logistical limitations make it exceptionally difficult to remove them. Illegal entry unfairly punishes people who follow the rules and must wait longer because their processing is slower.

After all, what is a building but a collection of walls with openings, called “doors,” which control the access of people and incursions by nature (such as rain)? Buildings are one of the preeminent elements of human technology, without which civilization couldn’t exist.

Some citizens of Tijuana, Mexico, vehemently protested the caravans that entered their city en route to the United States. They were protesting the home break-ins, the multiple-week school shutdown, and the unhygienic conditions. Yet, residents of Tijuana were of the same ethnic stock as the members of the caravan.

The idea that expressing concern about illegal immigration constitutes bigotry against Latinos can easily be refuted using some simple logic and arithmetic (with round numbers). I can demonstrate that almost no one would plausibly have a problem, even in the unlikely case that we both doubled legal immigration and selected all of the additional immigrants from Central America, as long as they came legally. Consider the following:

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the United States creates about 1.1 million lawful permanent residents annually. Suppose we take in another 1.1 million, thereby doubling the number, and, as noted above, we allocate all the slots to Mexico and Central America. The population of this area is about 180 million, representing 2.5 percent of the world’s population.

Could we find 1.1 million people from those nations who want to come legally, are not violent criminals, are employable, don’t have communicable diseases, and are willing to learn English? Of course, we could—we are talking about approximately half a percent of the population—1.1 million out of 180 million. Virtually all residents of this part of the world meet these criteria. If one believes otherwise, then the phrase used by President George W. Bush is applicable: “The soft bigotry of low expectations.”

The same logic applies to the rest of the world.

Double Standards

Some individuals hold that barriers are immoral; if so, they need to remove the locks on their doors, move out of any gated communities and/or doorman buildings, and fire all personal security guards. They also would need to support legislation to remove the approximately 650 miles of existing wall from the southern U.S. border.

The public is well aware that prominent politicians, entertainers, and business professionals erect entry barriers. So do many businesses, government offices, and other public buildings.

There are video recordings of major politicians who, a few years ago, were emphatic supporters of controlling unauthorized immigration. These include Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Walls Don’t Work

Walls have dramatically reduced illegal crossings in El Paso, Texas; Yuma, Arizona; and San Diego. Approximately 65 nations have walls, some of which were constructed to restrict unauthorized migrants from the Middle East. Israel has virtually eliminated illegal migration with its southern wall, and its West Bank wall has dramatically reduced terrorism.

It is nonsense to refer to a border wall as “medieval.” Many technologies, such as buildings and the wheel, have existed for much of human history. The concepts are sound, and the actual designs are upgraded as needed.

Much of the electronic equipment (sometimes called “virtual walls”) that has been tried, including ground sensors and surveillance towers, hasn’t worked. Some of it couldn’t distinguish animals from people and some was lost altogether. At most, all these devices can do is alert the Border Patrol—they can’t physically stop anyone. One wonders if the failures are due to incompetence or are deliberate, as Democrats want more new voters (most will vote Democratic) and both parties want cheap labor.

Another misleading issue is that most drugs are caught at legal ports of entry, so let’s ignore concerns about other areas. However, many crimes occur when no one is watching. Furthermore, the extensive drug networks require illegal personnel, and most of these people (and illegal minors) arrive through unguarded areas.

It is important to note that it’s not necessary for the wall to be perfect to justify its construction. It will be built in sections with construction plans revised and enhanced as needed, while other unsuccessful approaches such as “virtual walls” can be tried again in parallel.

Mexico Won’t Pay

It’s argued that Trump can’t keep his promise to have Mexico pay for the wall and that his presumed dishonesty offers another justification for denying wall funding. It did seem unwise to make this promise, as it was probably unnecessary for making the case. Nevertheless, with tens of billions of dollars being sent to relatives outside of the United States and the compelling medical costs in emergency rooms necessitated by illegal migrants, it’s certainly reasonable to assume that Mexico would eventually significantly bear the burden of these costs.

The United States also would benefit financially from slowing both the growth of the opioid addiction crisis and gang violence, as well as the costly disruption of school districts that are required to accommodate non-English speaking students, even though these resulting savings wouldn’t affect Mexico.

Nonsense, Offensive Analogies

Poorly reasoned analogies compare the wall to prisons and the Berlin Wall. But these were designed to keep people in, not stop unlawful entry.

The most offensive analogy has been to Nazi Germany. Law-abiding Jews were kidnapped in the night and separated from their children, and both were murdered. In contrast, illegal migrants were almost never separated if they arrived through legal ports of entry.

Parents were separated from children when they entered illegally, because (a) they had broken the law, (b) they were endangering the life of minors on the treacherous journey, and (c) there was a good chance they weren’t the real parents, but were using children to facilitate their own illegal entry. Furthermore, this policy is also often practiced in criminal proceedings involving U.S. citizens.

Religious Objections

It’s interesting that people who are contemptuous of religious people suddenly discover God in deciding that a border wall is immoral. My attitude toward this hypocrisy is that the Bible can be interpreted in many ways, and someone who claims the authority of God should produce a miracle, such as raising someone from the dead or splitting the sea.

Nevertheless, since it’s been done, I reluctantly offer some counterpoints.

In the Old Testament, God instructed Nehemiah, the governor of Persian Judea, to build walls, and the Old Testament clearly is quite comfortable with the idea of separate nations, as opposed to a borderless world.

The New Testament makes little reference to government policies, and indeed Jesus taught people to render under Caesar what is his, which is widely interpreted as advocating separating political and religious issues.

Finally, Pope Francis is a strong advocate for migration, including unauthorized migration—when he visited the Western Hemisphere in 2016, he stood at the U.S.–Mexico border to show his support for unauthorized migrants. Yet, the Vatican has some of the highest walls in the world, and there are plenty of guards and locks on the doors to protect high-level Church officials and to secure the cherished properties.

The Larger Picture

Hundreds of millions of people, perhaps a billion, would like to become U.S. citizens—they can’t all come.

The best approach for sustained human progress is to continue the remarkable reduction in poverty the world has already experienced in the past century, largely due to the spreading of democracy, free markets, technology, and our own overly generous trade policies.

Encouraging nations to export their problems, rather than solving them, will retard this progress and reflects the bigotry of low expectations mentioned previously.

Arthur Wiegenfeld is an independent investor in New York City. He has training in economics, finance, physics, and computer simulation. Comments to

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.