During his campaign, President Donald Trump pledged the construction of an unbroken border wall between the United States and Mexico. It has long been one of his signature talking points, and a source of great controversy that continues to dominate headlines. In the insightful documentary titled Life in the Shadow of the Wall, BBC News travels the entire length of the border to get a sense of the practical challenges and human costs associated with this massive endeavor.
The journey begins in Reynosa, a border city that's become a breeding ground for the drug cartels. There, Mexican authorities are struggling to contain an abundance of smuggling activity, and are forced to contend with an increasingly sophisticated cartel operation that works to outmaneuver them at every turn. Worst of all, the department is painfully short staffed after they underwent a mass removal of corrupt agents. The cartels stand ready to confront, assault and recruit those who are turned away by U.S. customs agents.
The film puts a human face on political policy. It presents the viewpoints of people on the ground, including property owners who are being asked by Homeland Security to relocate, volunteer border deputies who consistently happen upon the remains of murdered migrants, and transport truckers who are threatened and forced to smuggle drugs and weapons into the country.
Along the way, the filmmakers consider the practicality of building such a long-winding structure through treacherous terrain, the determination of migrants who will not be dissuaded by the presence of a wall, and the economic impact that limited immigration might pose in border towns and throughout the remainder of the country.
It may be some time before a massive border wall can begin construction. Prototypes must be selected, budgetary concerns must be sorted out, and congressional approval must be achieved. Even if approved, the wall is only one part of the equation. Additional investments must also be made in personnel and technologies. Life in the Shadow of the Wall offers a valuable and well-rounded representation of what's at stake, and considers whether a wall is really the answer to U.S. immigration woes.
Directed by: Paul Ivan Harris