To the great embarrassment of most of the nation, Donald Trump will not shut the fuck up about the wall. Unlike most of Donald's promises, he actually seems determined to build the dumb thing, and during a disastrous on-camera meeting with Democrats on Tuesday, said he is willing to shut down the federal government if Congress (which his party currently controls) refuses to fund it. Congress is about as likely to fund the wall as Mexico is, and so, as Nancy Pelosi pointedly told Donald as he screamed and threw feces against the walls of the Oval Office, if the shutdown happens, it will be forever known as the Trump Shutdown™. Much like Trump University, Trump Steaks, Trump Magazine, Trump Airlines, Trump Mortgage, and the entire Trump presidency, we should expect the Trump Shutdown, and the Trump Wall, to result in disaster.
While there is no good reason to build this wall, there are a whole lot of good reasons not to. It would, for one, be an ecological disaster, which we know because the 600 miles of the wall that already exist on the border have been an ecological disaster. Walls require building roads through wilderness areas, which increases flooding and erosion. Walls bisect migratory routes and isolate animal populations. And walls aren't just opposed by tree huggers and jaguars; plenty of people who own the land the wall is supposed to cross are opposed to it as well, and they've already gone to court to stop it. Trump says that the wall is necessary to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the US, but the reality is, this wall won't make the slightest dent.
Why? According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, most illegal drugs are smuggled into the US via air and water. Today, you can order fentanyl from China online and get it delivered to your door. And when drugs do come from Mexico, according to the DE fucking A., they are coming in on trucks that go through border stops, not people walking across the border. Trump, however, has never been one to listen to the experts.
If Trump actually cared about addressing the opioid crisis in the US, as he claims to, there is something the government could do: Decriminalize drugs. Yes, all of them.
Hard drugs aren't yet legal to purchase anywhere in the world, but they have been decriminalized in a handful of places. Portugal for instance, decriminalized all drugs in 2001 when the country was going through an opioid crisis of its own. Rates of heroin use, HIV, and overdoses were sky high, but rather than doubling down on the drug war, as we tend to do in the US, Portugal went in the other direction. Instead of facing arrest, people caught with drugs are given a warning, a small fine, and are ordered to visit specialists in treating addiction. Instead of funding prisons and courts, the government is able to fund treatment centers instead.
This worked. In the US, there are 185 overdose deaths per million people. In Portugal, there are only three. And not only did the rate of overdoses, HIV, hepatitis, crime, and incarceration decline, drug use among all age groups went down as well.
There was a cultural shift that went along with decriminalization, too; people started to think about addiction and drugs differently. "The language began to shift, too," writes Susana Ferreira in the Guardian. "Those who had been referred to sneeringly as drogados (junkies)—became known more broadly, more sympathetically, and more accurately, as 'people who use drugs' or 'people with addiction disorders.' This, too, was crucial." Drug users weren’t as dehumanized after decriminalization; instead of seeing them as criminals, they are viewed as people who need help.
Now, decriminalization isn't a magic bullet. Recovering from addiction is a multifaceted process and can require lifelong medication and lot of hard work to maintain. That said, decriminalization would drastically reduce incarceration rates in the US, which would bring broken families and communities back together. It would allow law enforcement to focus on crimes with actual victims instead of enforcing counterproductive drug laws. It would help address the race and class disparities that exist in the criminal justice system, and it would save the country a hell of a lot of money.
Building a wall isn't going to stop drugs from entering the country and it's not going to save any lives. Of course, Trump doesn't actually care about ending the drug crisis or even making the country a better place than it was when he got to DC. The only thing the man shut down about is Donald Trump, and the wall, if, God forbid, it gets built, will be just one more Trump-branded disaster.