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“I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I build them very inexpensively,” Donald Trump said early in his campaign. He promised that the wall would cover 1,000 miles of the 1,900-mile-long border between the United States and Mexico. Critics have noted that the wall would not stop illegal immigration. Instead, it would destroy the “delicate ecosystem” of the border region, and cost far more than Trump’s estimated $12 billion. Most harmful, however, would be the wall’s damaging effects on the relationship between the two countries. Trump’s wall symbolizes disintegrating race relations and growing xenophobia in American society.

Trump’s proposed wall is an egregious violation of human rights that stems from an intense fear of “the other.” This discriminatory mindset manifests itself in the policies surrounding the wall. For one, border patrol “will now mandatorily detain any migrant that is caught crossing the border without documentation.” This new order marks a shift from the Obama-era administration, which allowed officials to release immigrants claiming political asylum. Indeed, almost 60,000 minors and nearly 80,000 families detained at the border in 2016 were fleeing the violence of their Central American home countries. Trump’s policy reflects a lack of sympathy for immigrants based on their immigration statuses. His wall represents an unwillingness to aid those in need on the basis of their race or nationality, a typical characteristic of Trump and his government.

Furthermore, immigrants held in detention face further mistreatment. These centers offer minimal health care and contain poorly managed facilities. Many violate applicable medical standards, and the nonprofit organization Human Rights Watch reports several deaths of “migrants in the custody of U.S. immigration authorities.” Although the Office of Detention Oversight (ODO) “did not reach conclusions about whether identified deficiencies… contributed to the detainees’ deaths,” experts from the University of Washington and the New York University School of Medicine agree that the absence of proper care likely caused the deaths. The ODO’s statement thus demonstrates a severe lack of accountability from officials at the center and perpetuates the idea that the victims did not deserve medical attention because they were immigrants. These conditions reveal a growing trend of xenophobia in foreign relations with Mexico—one that Trump justifies with his racist narrative.

Rather than focusing on the plight of displaced Central American refugees, Trump has fueled irrational fear by proposing the introduction of an office to support the victims of crimes by illegal immigrants. His wife, Melania Trump, sat with the families of these victims during Trump’s first address to the joint session of Congress. Trump plans to call this new department the Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE), and claims he will provide “a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests.” However, research demonstrates that immigrants, illegal or otherwise, commit crimes at much lower rates than their native-born counterparts. Furthermore, the few victims of such crimes are far from “silenced” in the way that the voices of immigrants are. Trump nonetheless chooses to spread propaganda not based on fact and exploits the terror that results from his message.

Exemplified most clearly by the phrase “bad hombres,” Trump capitalizes on American perceptions of Mexico as a country of felons and drug lords. This biased perspective gained him support for the wall. As Pablo Piccato, Professor of History at Columbia University, notes, “Trump is masterfully exploiting long-held visions of Mexico as a nation defined by crime to further his political agenda.” Trump cites violence as an excuse to build the wall, blaming Mexicans for the abundance of drug trafficking across the border. But his thinking is flawed because American consumers’ “insatiable… demand for psychoactive substances” created this situation in the first place. Nonetheless, by shifting responsibility from American citizens, Trump is able to justify his bigoted tendencies.

Trump’s rhetoric involves more than simply pointing fingers at Mexico. His ideology has resonated so strongly with the American public that U.S. relations with Mexico are under threat. The Huffington Post reports that in March, 2017, U.S. college students on a cruise in Cancún, Mexico broke out into chants of “Build the Wall!” The event underscores the effectiveness of Trump’s fear-mongering tactics. A Mexican commentator of the Yucatán Times pointed out the irony of the situation—privileged Americans advocating the wall while vacationing in Mexico.         

Trump’s wall is only one of his attempts to spread his racist dogma in American society. From mistreating displaced immigrants and unfairly condemning Mexicans to amplifying an environment of fear and hate in America, the effects of the proposed wall are devastating. At a time when we desperately need harmony and unity, Trump’s wall represents division and segregation between the U.S. and Mexico. Of all those things that could “make America great again,” barriers are not one.