• Susan Poirier

The cost of a wall

We’ve heard $18 billion, $25 billion, $30 billion or more.

But numbers cannot give an accurate picture of the social, psychological, and environmental repercussions of a border wall that represent real cost to communities and nature.

The very presence of a wall conjures danger and fear. A wall shouts intolerance. A wall passes judgment—some are allowed in, others must be kept out.

Growing up hearing the metaphor ‘iron curtain,' I felt the fear in those words. For 28 years the Berlin Wall was the iron curtain, symbolizing the Cold War and separating East and West Germany. The guards opened the gates in 1989 when they knew the will of the people to end oppression had won. The process of tearing down this dividing wall and reuniting the country began.

A wall punishes the innocent. A wall through the border of Arizona and Mexico would divide the Tohono O’odham’s native tribal land in two, their sacred ancestral home and community. Predecessors of the Tohono O’odham, the Hohokam, lived on these lands of the Sonoran Desert thousands of years ago.

Both human and wildlife are victimized. The Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge in Texas is the first target for the wall, though only five percent of this precious borderlands habitat remains intact.

Eighty-nine threatened species and more than four hundred bird species need the Santa Ana Refuge for food, protection, nesting, and as a migratory stopover during long journeys every spring and fall between South and North America.

If the Tohono O’odham’s native lands are defiled by a wall, freedom to travel throughout their ancestral lands and community is sacrificed. The Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge will no longer exist if a wall, built out of racism and xenophobia, destroys it and all the migration corridors that sustain its diverse wildlife.

“Before I built a wall I’d like to know what I was walling in or walling out, and to whom I was like to give offence.”—Mending Wall, American poet Robert Frost




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