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Harvard Latinx Law Review




For many, the construction of a physical border is a rational solution to national security concerns at the southern border. However, there is much evidence indicating that the negative impacts of building a physical border wall far outweigh its benefits. Particularly, the border region’s eco-systems have much to lose in the form of extinctions, biodiversity reduction, and critical habitat destruction. On top of that, a number of Latino communities would be the victims of various eminent domain claims that would strip them of land that, in many cases, has been in their family for multiple gener- ations. The broad, almost unilateral, scope of authority granted to the President to build a physical border wall would eviscerate decades of environmental protection and cost the United States billions of dollars to build and upkeep the wall.

Proponents of a physical border fail to acknowledge the shortcomings of the policy, as exemplified by their disregard of its environmental impacts. Proponents of a physical border also fail to see that there is an option that is much more effective and efficient. Abandoning the idea of a physical-border wall and embracing a “virtual wall”1 would provide effective border secur- ity, prevent further environmental degradation, and prevent the economic harm to Latino communities that would result from constructing a physical wall.

This paper will proceed by explicating:

(1) the statutory development of US border policy since 1996; (2) the impact that a wall would have on Latino land ownership along the U.S.–Mexico Border; (3) the economic and environmental impact of constructing a physical border; (4) the way in which the environmental impact may be used to prevent the construction of the wall; and (5) an alternative to a physical border that will promote national secur- ity and ensure the longevity of the border region’s ecosystems and economy.

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Harvard Law School

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