The Border Wall

This is a fascinating documentary about the wall which is being constructed along the US border with Mexico in a futile attempt to prevent immigrants from entering the country. Talented documentary film maker Wayne Ewing explores the issues which have been thrown up by the construction and builds a strong case against the wall.

The Department of Homeland Security have been spending hundreds of millions of dollars erecting a steel fence which covers 670 miles of the 2000 mile US Mexico border. Led by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Republican politician Duncan Hunter the project is pushing ahead in a desperate attempt to finish before President Bush leaves office and their support evaporates. Hunter authored the Secure Fence Act of 2006 which allowed them to ignore existing legislation and force the construction through despite the environmental and conservation laws in place which should have the power to prevent it. They claim the wall will lead to a drop in crime statistics but the negative impacts are many and varied.

Ewing highlights the issues at play, showing that in effect the wall does not prevent illegal immigration it merely displaces it and makes the journey from Mexico to the US more dangerous and open to criminal manipulation. Desperate Mexicans seeking a higher standard of living are now forced to attempt perilous journeys through the mountains or desert and the result is an increase in deaths. Since the journey is now more difficult it has become more expensive and many criminal organisations have become involved in the trade.

The cultural impact is also being felt as communities with long historical links across the border are divided. In some towns the ugly steel structure will cut the people off from the river and is also expected to impact on farming communities who may find stretches of their own land become inaccessible. Many people have been sued for not giving up their land so the wall can be erected.

Aside from the human cost there is also a huge environmental impact as wildlife habitats are divided by the wall and the health and well being of many animals is put at risk. Many of the 36 federal laws which have been waived by Chertoff are related to wildlife preservation and activists seem powerless to resist.

Through interviews with local communities, border officials on both sides, wildlife workers and immigrants Ewing paints a picture of a divisive and disturbing development which is ultimately ineffective. He intersperses footage of congressional hearings as the political system wilfully ignores the protests and ploughs on with a hugely expensive policy which is sure to fail. While Ewing clearly has an agenda it would be churlish to suggest his bias is not justified because the border wall is obviously a deeply flawed idea that will have a powerful negative impact.

The film is well considered, beautifully shot and extremely well edited. While many of the facts are given by a voiceover narrative the emotive arguments are left to real individuals who voice their concerns with an impacting intensity. The blatant stupidity and wilful ignorance of the project leaders is exposed as they trample over the law in a rush to get the wall up before their mandate is withdrawn. This is an intelligent and touching documentary which is essential viewing for anyone interested in this issue and we can only hope the arguments will be heard and acted upon by the new president.

Reviewed by Simon Hill

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