A Border Wall Isn’t Very Popular Among The People Who Actually Live There

Two people walk towards metal bars marking the United States border where it meets the Pacific Ocean Wednesday, March 2, 2016, in Tijuana, Mexico. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/GREGORY BULL
Two people walk towards metal bars marking the United States border where it meets the Pacific Ocean Wednesday, March 2, 2016, in Tijuana, Mexico. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/GREGORY BULL

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump built his political career on a campaign promise to build a border wall along the U.S. border with Mexico if elected president. But a new poll has found that a large majority of residents living in major cities along the southern U.S. border with Mexico aren’t excited about that prospect.

About 72 percent of people living on the U.S. side of the border and 86 percent of people living on the Mexican side are opposed to building a wall, a poll funded by Cronkite News, Univision News, and Dallas Morning News found. Building out a border wall also isn’t on the top of their priority list — 77 percent of Mexicans and 70 percent of Americans found that the economy, crime, and education were more important than border issues. Another 69 percent of Mexicans and 79 percent of Americans said that they depend on the other country for economic survival.

CREDIT: Cronkite News, Univision News, and Dallas Morning News
CREDIT: Cronkite News, Univision News, and Dallas Morning News

The survey was conducted in seven pairs of sister cities in the United States and Mexico.

Survey respondents weren’t asked specifically about Trump, who has been forceful about his aggressive proposals to stem immigration into the country. But the results do push back against some of the policy positions of the presumptive GOP nominee, who has openly claimed characterized Mexican immigrants as rapists, criminals, and drug dealers.

“This wall makes sense if you’re not from here, if you’ve never been here, if you’re scared of Mexico and of Mexicans,” Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) said in response to the poll’s findings. “It seems like a good emotional response to that fear. But when you live here and you know how interconnected we are and you know friends, or have family on both sides of the border, it seems ridiculous at best and, at worst, it seems like something that is shameful and embarrassing.”

This wall makes sense if you’re not from here, if you’ve never been here.

The Washington Post pointed out that the results may have been skewed a bit because “cities in the United States tend to be more liberal-leaning than rural areas, which could mean residents would be more inclined to oppose a border wall. Most of the cities also have overwhelmingly Hispanic populations — for instance, Nogales, Ariz., is 95 percent Hispanic. That could also affect the results, since Latino Americans tend to have more liberal attitudes on immigration issues.”

Still, the poll results, which provide a snapshot into the mindset of people who would be most directly affected by a potential border wall, echo the findings from previous surveys of other groups of Americans. A Reuters report in April found that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency would like more reinforcements along the southern border, but not in the form of a border wall. And a Pew Research Center poll in March found six in ten U.S. voters oppose building a wall along the southern U.S. border. Even GOP voters are starting to favor a less harsh approach to immigration policy — one recent survey found that most young Republicans want to see a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the United States.

Under the Obama administration, the U.S. has already undertaken many provisions to strengthen security along the southern border. There are more than 17,700 Border Patrol agents along the southern U.S. border; a quarter of staff in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency are dedicated to the southwest border; the CBP agency has deployed numerous high-tech surveillance systems; and all southbound rail shipments are screened. That collective effort led to the apprehension of 331,333 people border agents last year, the “lowest number of apprehensions on our southern border since 1972,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in January.