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Anshul is a Political Science and Law graduate from the University of Delhi. He is interested in political, legal and policy developments and frequently writes on related themes. You can contact him on anshulkumarpandey [at] gmail [dot] com.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Building Walls and Banning Refugees - Will This Help Humanity?

This post was featured in Blogadda's Tangy Tuesday Picks 

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who are hungry and not fed, from those who are cold and not clothed." - President Dwight Eisenhower

The decision by 45th President of the United States, Mr. Donald Trump, to ban immigration from 7 Muslim majority countries and build a wall along its southern border with Mexico has sparked off a heated debate on the merits and demerits of such a policy. While majority of experts, scholars and commentators have condemned these policies by calling them divisive and short-sighted, a comprehensive evaluation of the subject is required before one can pronounce one's agreement or disagreement with their verdict. To understand the logic behind these tough immigration policies, it is important to explore the nature and scale of the refugee crises in different parts of the world which gives rise to such large scale immigration in the first place. 

Refugee Crises

The conflict in Syria between the government and western backed rebels is the immediate cause for the implementation of tough immigration policies by President Trump. The civil war and the struggle for power has rendered hundreds of thousands of Syrians homeless and has sent them to the shores of western countries in search of safety.

a) Causes of Refugee Crises 

Displacement and dislocation of a large number of people from their homes, leading them to migrate to other countries in search of safety and shelter, gives rise to a refugee crises. Some of the causes include conflicts between different countries, breakdown of political system and struggle for power within the country by different groups and persecution on the basis of religion, political affiliation, language, ethnicity etc. by authoritarian and dictatorial regimes.

b) Examples of Refugee Crises

Apart from the recent Syrian refugee crises, some of the other well known examples include persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany by Adolf Hitler, persecution of the Bengali speaking population in East Pakistan by the regime of General Yahya Khan, persecution of Tamil speaking minority in Sri Lanka and the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

c) Refugee Resettlement Program

It is a system through which refugees are granted 'resttlement' in developed countries to live their life in peace and security and secure employment with government support. It underscores the commitment of developed economies to promote globalization and multiculturalism which is the bedrock of their economies. To a lesser extent, this system recognizes the historical role of colonization and imperialism as well as the damage caused by their continuing foreign policies. It is also a means of developing and building political pressure on authoritarian regimes to find solutions to their domestic political problems through dialogue rather than persecution. 

d) Associated Issues

Even when refugees are able to find asylum in a neutral/developed country, they face cultural dislocation and difficulty in integration with the local community. They also suffer from psychological and behavorial issues due to experience of immense stress and trauma.

President Trump's Immigration Policies

a) Building a Wall

i) Origin : Building a wall on the southern border with Mexico is one of the campaign pledges made by President Trump. One of his first actions after assuming Presidency on January 20th was to sign an executive order authorizing planning, designing and building of 1600 km long border wall with Mexico. The move is aimed at reducing rate of crimes allegedly committed by illegal immigrants and cracking down on smuggling of illicit drugs and other narcotic substances. The idea of a wall is inspired by the 230 km long wall constructed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu along the country's southern border with Egypt.

ii) Causes : The need for such a wall has been justified by the rising incidences of crimes allegedly committed by illegal immigrants, "rampant" drug trade due to smuggling of narcotic substances across the border and also the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which has resulted in a $60 billion deficit in favor of Mexico. President Trump has repeatedly asked Mexico to pay for the construction of the wall as a part of measures to bridge this deficit.

iii) Impact : A wall maybe able to achieve substantially all three of its stated objectives i.e. reduction in illegal immigration, cracking down on smuggling of drugs and other narcotic substances as well as reducing the trade deficit with Mexico, but its demerits far outweigh the merits. Firstly, construction of a 1,600 km long physical wall will fuel resentment in the excluded population - a wall symbolizes hostility rather than friendship. It will also adversely impact the promise of America as a "land of opportunity" where everybody is welcome and the image of the country will take a hit. Finally, legal immigrants will face further checks and procedures and the procedure of immigration will become lengthy and difficult which will further disincentivize immigration and prohibit the exchange of human capital.

b) Ban on Refugees

Also referred to as the 'Muslim Ban' policy, this forms another key component of President Trump's immigration policy. Under this policy, immigration from 7 Muslim majority countries that are suspected to be "compromised by terrorism" is banned. These countries are - syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya. The justification given for this policy is that it is aimed at overhauling checks and procedures of immigrants and pre-empting any incidence of religiously motivated terrorist acts. However, three Muslim majority countries - Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt - whose citizens have actually carried out terrorist attacks on US soil, do not feature in the list. Unfortunately, this policy refuses to recognize the role of US Foreign Policy in contributing to the refugee crises in the first place and fuels discontent and anger.

c) Reduction in H1B visas

Apart from banning immigration from several countries, President Trump has also made reduction in H1B visas as one of his targets by advocating more requirements such as a Masters degree and a yearly income of or above $100,000 mandatory for securing such visas. He has also warned companies against outsourcing American jobs and has advocated a policy of 'America First'. 


Protectionist, short-sighted and exclusionary policies that promote division, sow discord, take advantage of fear and insecurity of the people and advocate xenophobia and racism can never bear good news for humanity. The policies advocated and implemented by President Trump fall in the above category. As someone who stands for Christian values, he should turn to the Bible and remember the episode when God parted the sea for Moses and his followers who were similarly persecuted on the basis of their religion.