Unfinished Business

Trump’s Wall is an Infrastructure Issue – and it’s the Wrong One to Pursue

By Arielle Atherley and Cedric Lawson

During the 2016 campaign, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump promised $1 trillion for American infrastructure, doubling his opponent’s plan. It’s now May 2017, and we have yet to see the administration release the details of any proposal.

The acute need for infrastructure improvement remains an ongoing imperative. A decade ago, the collapse of a Twin Cities bridge resulted in the deaths of seven people and was a catalyst for infrastructure funding in the 2009 federal stimulus package. More recently, in Atlanta, the centrally located intersecting arteries, Interstate 85 and Interstate 20, are literally crumbling, with no immediate response from the White House.

Instead, the infrastructure project that the Trump administration has prioritized is funding for a wall or fence through southern border communities. Though the wall is often discussed within the context of immigration, its impact extends to property rights and the local environment. These effects will be deeply felt in southern border states like California and Texas, where local economies will be left to grapple with the aftermath of this disruptive development.

Opponents of the wall have taken notice of the Trump administration’s proactivity. In Arizona, Rep. Raul Grijalva, D. Ariz., is working with advocacy organizations to hold the Trump administration accountable. Rep. Grijalva and the Center for Biological Diversity have gone to court, petitioning the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona to force the federal government to provide an environmental impact analysis before construction of any parts of a wall could begin.

Considering the vast infrastructure needs of the United States, the 21st century should not be an era of spending on divisive and unwanted infrastructure like the border wall. At a time we should be investing in projects that deliver community benefits, environmental justice, racial equity, and good jobs, putting precious resources toward building a border wall is a clear step in the wrong direction.

Arielle Atherley is a policy associate and Cedric Lawson is a field manager at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and The Leadership Conference Education Fund.


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