The Instigator
Con (against)
The Contender
Pro (for)

The US should build a wall along its border with Mexico

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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: Select Winner
Started: 9/5/2017 Category: Politics
Updated: 10 months ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 938 times Debate No: 103787
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (13)
Votes (0)




Pro should present their case in Round 1 and waive Round 4. No new arguments in each side's final round.

Thanks to JohnSmythe for taking this debate. Note: Ordinary vote moderation standards apply.



Permit me to begin my discussion of this very important and relevant topic by beginning at the core of the matter. Whether or not we should build a wall or not is entirely related to our fundamental conception of the role of the state. Were we, for example, to adopt an unorthodox definition of the state, such as "The government exists to prevent social inequality", then one might easily find cause to object to a proposal that would prevent the poor in one nation from receiving transfer payments from the better situated nation.

However, the statement of the purpose of the state in the United States is outlined in the preamble of the Constitution of the United States, and I quote:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity (italics added), do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Perceive the beneficiaries of all the purposes of the state; ourselves, and our posterity. Any proposed policy at the federal level ought to be evaluated in the light of its impacts upon ourselves and our posterity. No one need accuse me of nativism as I explain this point of view. It is my actual opinion that immigration is benefits and I would love unlimited immigration just as I love free trade, were it not for the current and projected welfare policies of the federal government. I merely submit that the federal government has obligations exactly commensurate to the extent of the assumption by an individual of reciprocal obligations such as loyalty, service, and dilligence in maintaining social order through upholding legitimately instituted laws upon themselves. It is only when a citizen violates his obligations for example that the government is not merely permitted but obligated to withdraw many of its protections and actively infringe upon liberties previously enjoyed. Foreigners illegally residing within the United States are granted some but not all of those protections, and non-citizens without have negligible consideration.

I quote from Matthews vs. Diaz "Neither the overnight visitor, the unfriendly agent of a hostile foreign power, the resident diplomat, nor the illegal entrant, can advance even a colorable constitutional claim to a share in the bounty that a conscientious sovereign makes available to its own citizens and some of its guests. The decision to share that bounty with our guests may take into account the character of the relationship between the alien and this country: Congress may decide that, as the alien's tie grows stronger, so does the strength of his claim to an equal share of that munificence." The constitutional objection to the border barrier based on supposed rights of current or prospective illegal aliens to come in and enjoy our copious "bounty", to borrow the language
from Matthew, is thus laid to rest.


Now, proceeding to the actual matter of the border fence, I salient that I agreed to debate only whether it should be built or not, not whether it should be built while leaving the remainder of immigration policies as they are presently constituted. To completely combat the question of illegal immigration, a holistic approach must be pursued, such as reducing incentives in the form of public benefits, being tougher on employers who employ undocumented workers, tracking better those who receive visas, changing the legal immigration process to make it easier, etc. I will suspend this digression and will only pursue it if my opponent wishes to. Suffice it to say that my proposed policy changes would prevent a simple, uniform, mass migration of illegal immigrants by plane rather than by land.

Border barriers exist the world over, and their purposes vary from migration control and terrorism prevention. As a matter of fact, 65 countries either have or are in the process of building border walls. They come from all sides of the political spectrum, be they left-wing social democracies such as Austria and Norway, islamic fundamental dictatorships such as Iran, or totalitarian monarchies such as Saudi Arabia, and many sates in between. This roster includes countries existentially threatened by their neighbors, such as South Korea, countries overwhelmed by migrants, such as India, and countries afflicted by terrorism, such as Israel. While of course the proliferation of border barriers cannot be taken as evidence properly said of their efficacy, in my view, it prohibits a simple dismissal of border barriers based on a few cases here and there of ineffectiveness. This is a global phenomenon happening in nearly every culture group. There is some motivation for this consensus among otherwise radically different societies as pertaining to border walls. I submit that Occam`s razor would compel us to assume the simplest explanation first, that is, that border walls actually function and that seeing as all nations regardless of their political philosophy are self-interested, some element of national self-interest is enhanced by the investment in a border barrier. I therefore propose that in view of this staggering global consensus of governments from such different ideological backgrounds, each privileged with far more data than any casual internet debater, the burden of proof rests with my opponent. It is incumbent upon him to show that border barriers in general and American border barriers in speicifc, are ineffective.


We may therefore examine some of the more successful implementations of a border barrier, organized by their purposes. I begin with illegal immigration control. To allow my opponent room to make a detailed analysis of my cited examples, I will keep them short and few

1. Spain: ask, how would a horde of 1100 people have been stopped, if not by either extreme violence or the threat thereof, were it not for a physical barrier incapicitating their entry? The walls are considered "generally effective"
2. Israel: annual crossings from an average of around 9000 a year to just 16 in 2016.

A US fence to reduce significantly the illegal immigrant flow would not need to span the entire length of the border. Simply putting highly effective fencing such as is found in San Diego ( in strategic, high-infrastructure areas would greatly reduce the frequency of border crossings as the financial cost of crossing empty desert and risk to health would dramatically increas, disincentivizing a greater share of potential illegal migrants.


Now, allow me to lay out my opponent`s probable argument for him.

1. "Many people come by visas!": Both an example of the Nirvana fallacy and refuted by II.
2. "Border fences don`t work! People still come across!": Again, Nirvana fallacy. Seat belts do not save every life in a collision, but they reduce significantly.
3. "It costs too much!" An additional 3.5 miles of fencing in San Diego is estimated to cost 35 million. ( As an example, if the Rio Grande section, the presently most crossed section of the border were totally walled off, then it would cost 3 billion dollars. That`s no chump change, but remember the cost of transfer payments provided to illegal immigrants. Medicaid expenses alone amount to 2 billion per year. In 1995 with a population of 4.5 million illegal immigrants, their total cost to federal, state, and local governments was 30 billion dollars in 2016 dollars that year. welfare state has since expanded, as has illegal immigrant population. If the border fence prevented over the next 20 years the crossing of a total of 4.5 million people, it will have paid back over the same period its investment more than tenfold. Per year, nearly half a million people are apprehended, not counting those who evade detection.;

Summarizing therefore my case, in the mere financial benefits, to say nothing of the anti-terror benefits, the border fence is a solid option for US national interests.

Debate Round No. 1


Thanks to Pro for the debate.


In this debate, Pro has to prove that, on balance, building a wall would benefit the United States and have a net benefit in general. I'm going to prove the opposite; that building such a wall doesn't have benefits. Pro tries to shift the entirety of the burden of proof in this debate onto me by saying "many countries have border barriers and it's my burden to prove that we don't need one." First, Pro doesn't just have to defend the current existence of any "border barriers" which don't constitute "walls," given that walls have a solid foundation along their whole length. At the very least, Pro needs to defend the construction of barriers with solid foundations in the area of the U.S.-Mexico border not currently covered by barriers. Second, even if other countries implement these barriers, that isn't a reason to shift the burden on me given that the United States has not completed the construction of such a "wall"; Pro has to defend a deviation from the status quo. As a result, they have a burden in this debate as well.

In this debate, my stance is simply that the United States should not build barriers (with solid foundation) along its entire border with Mexico. I don't need to, in this debate, need to go into any more specifics; this is simply a comparison between a world with a wall and a world without a border wall. In general, I support a more liberalized immigration policy, but that's not something I have to defend in this debate.


I have three claims: (1) the United States government has an obligation to both its citizens and immigrants; (2) the costs of Pro's plan outweigh any costs prevented; (3) current rates of undocumented immigration to the United States are desirable. My refutation of Pro's case will be interwoven throughout my case. Note: In the next round, I'll also talk about the impacts of a wall on wildlife.

I. Moral Obligations

The role of the United States government is two-fold in this debate: advancing the interests of its own people, and advancing the interests of other people, including undocumented immigrants and other actors in this debate. The reason for that is that even if the government has a specific obligation to its people, that doesn't mean it has no obligation whatsoever to anyone else, for the simple reason that preventing human suffering is a good in and of itself. This debate, then, should be weighed according to who has a net benefit on all relevant stakeholders.

Pro says that the role of government comes by a reciprocal obligation to its people, and that it owes no such obligation to immigrants. I have two responses to this. First, the role of government does not come out of some contractual obligation to its people. Instead, it comes from a simple framework of advancing benefit of all individuals; everyone has a basic interest in a good quality of life, and thus people have obligations to other individuals to uphold a net good quality of life. The government, as representative of a population which has such obligations, then, has an obligation to uphold this right to a decent quality of life for all individuals.

Second, the U.S., in particular, has a direct obligation to undocumented immigrants coming from Mexico. Massive problems of poverty afflicting the Mexican people have been perpetuated by U.S. policy; for instance, as a result of NAFTA, two million Mexican jobs were lost and Mexican agriculture suffered. [1] Indeed, as Noam Chomsky explains, "The flight of Mexicans was anticipated: Clinton initiated the militarization of the border when NAFTA was passed. It was quite predictable that NAFTA would destroy much of the campesino class, unable to compete with highly subsidized US agribusiness, along with other effects by now well-documented. Immigration follows as night follows day." [2] Beyond just NAFTA, massive agricultural subsidies that the U.S. government gives large farmers causes massive harm to the ability of Mexican agriculture to compete. Susanna Baumann of the Huffington Post explains, "Agricultural dumping between the United States and Latin American countries have swept agricultural production and prices in nearby countries while increasing displaced rural workers' migration." [3] As a result, the U.S. has a direct obligation to these individuals, fleeing the lack of economic opportunities in Mexico often as a result of American foreign and economic policy. If Pro buys the principle of reciprocity, they should also agree that the U.S. has an obligation to immigrants.

II. Costs

The border wall would cost a lot. According to a Department of Homeland Security internal report, Trumo's wall plan would cost $21.6 billion. [4] Bloomberg has estimated that the cost of completing the fence would be $28 billion per year. [5] The Washington Post issued an extensive criticism of Trump's cost estimates, arguing that it would cost around $25 billion. [6] None of those estimates takes into account the maintenance costs of the wall; the Congressional Budget Office "estimates that wall maintenance costs will exceed the initial construction costs within seven years." [7] Note that this is just Trump's plan, which is a combination of fences and walls; Pro has to defend a wall across the whole border which doesn't have barriers yet, so that would probably cost even more.

Pro says the cost of immigrants within a country exceed that, costing upto $30 billion a year. However, that relies on the idea that a border wall has 100% solvency to immigration, which isn't even likely. The anti-immigration think tank, the Center for Immigration Studies, suggests that somewhere between 30 and 57 percent of undocumented immigrants within the United States are there due to visa overstays. [8] Meanwhile, the Government Accountability Office reported that the problem is probably greater than 57 percent. [8] I'll get into efficacy in more detail next round, but that at least means that the costs of a border wall substantially exceed the fiscal benefit. This is a huge opportunity cost that denies vulnerable Americans their rights to a basic quality of life – money that could otherwise be expended with massive utility.

III. Benefits of Immigration

I argue that current rates of undocumented immigration to the United States are desirable; and reducing those rates are harmful. For one, low-skilled immigrants are willing to quickly relocate to new markets when existing markets fail. This would fix labor shortages. In the Schengen zone, upto 25% of a labor shock could be absorbed by low-skilled immigrants. [9] Additionally, immigrants affect prices. A 1% increase in immigrants would reduce prices by 0.5%. [10] This has a positive effect, in controlling inflation, and increasing consumption, benefiting the economy. Finally, immigrants themselves are consumers, adding heavily to the economy. It's no wonder, then, that only 16.7% of economists think that the current rate of immigration is too high. [11]

This is crucial because it takes down the crux of Pro's case: the notion that undocumented immigration is bad. If the slate is wiped clean, and I deal with Pro's best world, one where the wall reduces immigration, that actually has a negative impact on the economy. But beyond just that, the wall would hurt immigrants. It would force prospective immigrants to take dangerous desert routes, risking their lives. [12] And for those immigrants who don't come, it significantly hurts their economic opportunities. On average, immigrants can double their wages, improving their quality of life, and, crucially, sending remittances back home. These remittances can progress the economic opportunities in other nations as well. [13]

In short, the border wall would deny immigrants basic opportunities, cut the flow of remittances, harm the U.S. economy, and put a massive strain on the budget.



As pertaining to "Burdens":

Con is attempting to deny me the prerogative which I, Pro, possess to determine the border wall policy which he than may criticize, including how much of the border gets a wall rather than a fence or simply letting the desert be a buffer zone and of what material the wall is made. I am not obligated to defend Trump`s proposal for the border wall nor the Tianshun Emperor`s proposal nor any one else`s but my own. I ask that in his rebuttals he consider my border barrier policy, which is to replicate San Diego or Mellila style barriers, even walls, across anywhere where an urban environment is. A wall can always be defeated, and in the middle of the desert tacking on another, say, 5 minutes isn`t really important when it takes several hours to reach an urban environment and disappear. But in such communities as San Diego, the Rio Grande sector, so on, so forth, the entire environment is urban and 5 minutes means the difference between a nearby border agent apprehending or repulsing or the individual blending in and disappearing, then those communities merit a wall. Many of Con`s arguments fall apart, including those of cost, on this basis, and such many I will not address as they do not apply.

I invite Con instead to examine how much of the border (zoom in to see how close the communities are to the border) actually has urban centers remotely close to the border. I think it is less than 10%, and logistical costs of building a wall in or near an urban environment vs the middle of a rough desert are far lower. I invite Con to accept the figure of 2.5 billion as the cost of this more sensible border barrier, slightly less than 10% of Bloomberg`s 28 billion.

As pertaining to "Benefits of Immigration":

Con has attempted to overload with sources. He cites a totally inapplicable example of legal immigrants from the FSU (his footnote 10). I invite readers to read his source and the author`s analysis to show why former Soviet Union immigrants to Israel do not apply. Con`s source about economists and immigration also does not have the economists distinguishing between legal and illegal immigration, but rather consults their consensus on immigration in general, which is a very different matter.

As pertaining to "Moral Obligations":

I dispute Mr. Chomsky`s assertion, but were it true it is irrelevant. Mexico entered into NAFTA not on terms of force, but because it sought to. Whatever consequences are derivative therefrom are Mexico`s responsibility.

Con and I have reached a fundamental disagreement that is simply a matter of belief. We dispute whether the government`s role is, as the founders stated, to establish justice, secure domestic tranquility, etc. to ourselves and our posterity, or also to those beyond our borders. I submit that Con does not believe the position he has articulated. By equating those beyond our borders with those within, the logical consequence, if Con really believed that the government "comes from a simple framework of advancing benefit of all individuals" then he ought advocate the government confiscate nearly all the wealth in this country and ship it to Africa where the poor could leave starvation.

Con has stated that the government does not arise from a contractual obligation. The Founding Fathers disagree:

"Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed" (Declaration of Independence, July 4th 1776)

The government gets its just powers from the consent of the governed. If you are not "governed" or do not consent to be governed, either because you are lawless or have another sovereign, your contribution to the just powers of the government is reduced.

Continuing the quote,

"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends (the alienable rights endowed by the Creator), it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness"

Once again, the right of a people is to establish a government which to them will effect their safety and happpiness. Per the declaration, considerations of other nations, such as our allies, should only be considered in light of that ally`s contribution to our safety and happiness. Earlier in the document it indeed says that all men are endowed with inalienable rights, but it becomes apparent in the rest of the document that governments protect those rights to those who are governed by it, and if one does not recognize a government as being his by his lack of consent thereto, he and like-minded people ought create their own government or at least modify that government to get those rights protected.

Con has asserted that there is no distinction between powers and responsibilities of the government vs. those of the people. That is his belief, but unsupported by the Constitution.

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." (Tenth Amendment)

The people therefore have powers different from the government. I personally participate in international charity extensively and I invite Con to do so as well, but I do not want him to use the government`s monopoly on force to appropriate from a governed people resources to a people who do not consent to be governed by it.
Debate Round No. 2
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Debate Round No. 3
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Debate Round No. 4
13 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by tejretics 10 months ago
Oh no -- I totally forgot about this, my timetable is totally loaded with work.

Can we please redo this in about a week and cancel this debate?
Posted by tejretics 10 months ago
Also, a source [14] -- I'd like to credit 16k and ResponsiblyIrresponsible for influencing some of the economic arguments I made re: the benefits of immigration here. I didn't actually refer any of their debates when writing this case, but that's how I came to know of many of the sources I used.
Posted by tejretics 10 months ago
The actual link to source [6] --
Posted by tejretics 10 months ago
Apologies for a really sloppy round; hopefully my next round will be substantially better.
Posted by justadudeman 10 months ago
other countries have built walls in the past. no matter what the reason, they haven't worked out.
Posted by tejretics 10 months ago
Alright, I've sent you the challenge.

Please post your arguments in round 1 and waive the final round, as per the rules.
Posted by JohnSmythe 10 months ago
I can take Pro.
Posted by NDECD1441 10 months ago
Wait sorry. I meant con. i'm against the wall...
Posted by Nd2400 10 months ago
Oh i see, darn i was looking forward on going against the wall.
Posted by tejretics 10 months ago
>And just to make sure you are for the wall right?

Nope. I'm against the wall - hence, I'm "Con."
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