Donald Trump, ran his campaign on a promise to build ‘a great, great wall’  along the US-Mexico border. Immigration, drug trafficking and unemployment are major issues among both American and Mexican citizens keeping President Trump’s promise firmly in the limelight. As an engineer in a construction company, what actions should we take in relation to this contract, considering the ethical implications of our actions?
For Building Trump’s Wall
Since the recession in 2008, the United States economy has not fully recovered and the rate of unemployment is estimated to be as high as 15% in parts of the country. This is linked to decades of concern about immigrants pushing local wages down, and diverting US money to their families in Mexico. As mentioned in the Time Magazine, the wall project will bring up to 25,000 jobs during its construction phase. Furthermore, according to CareerRide, the U.S. economy is in no position to receive more illegal immigrants, as the existing illegal workforce receive approximately $25,000 per household, from government benefits and through welfare. A border wall will return to American tax-payers the economic opportunities they truly deserve. Furthermore, the economic benefits will stretch to the other side of the border for Mexican companies participating in activities such as clearing roads and supplying materials.
Safety & Security
According to the Mexican government, 13,000 people were killed in 2011 as a result of drug violence. The wall could go some way to dismantling the drug trade if policed effectively and it has been argued  that its construction will boost the feeling of security amongst Americans. The above arguments, when applied to the utilitarian ethical framework, point out that the economic and social benefits are significant, outweighing any potentially negative side effects of the border wall construction.
The current 700-mile wall built in 2006 encompassed many urban areas including Tijuana, El Paso and Nogales. This diverted people towards taking the more dangerous routes of the open deserts or mountainous terrain, which has ultimately led to an increase in deaths. The new wall is estimated to be between 30-50ft tall making it nearly impenetrable, The proposal would ultimately aid public safety as it would deter migrants from both making a dangerous journey in the first place as well as from climbing the wall. So from a virtue ethics perspective, using the engineer’s codes of ethics, building the wall would “Prevent avoidable danger to health or safety” and is, therefore, an ethical act.
Beyond our skills
The engineering council states that engineers should “undertake only professional tasks for which they are competent, and disclose relevant limitations of competence.” It is beyond the competence of an engineer to make judgements on the social and political consequences of the wall. And should consult either the HR department or their professional governing body to voice their concerns. Which again agrees with a virtue ethics perspective.
Against Building Trump’s Wall
The U.S. Mexico border spans roughly 3,100km. To build a wall along this border would be an expensive and huge engineering feat, but should it be done? These 3,100km are home to plateaus, mountains, valleys, rivers, and an array of plants and animals. A number of environmental issues must be considered as a wall could have a huge impact. The California border is home to 18 federally protected species along with 39 federally endangered, threatened, or candidate species  along the Arizona border. A wall could restrict breeding of these species pushing them towards extinction. Is building a wall worth the potential loss of species?
The path of the border includes dry lands which require runoff routes to avoid flooding and preserve the natural environment. This exponentially increases complexity and therefore cost. Another environmental factor is the effect on climate change. “The production of cement, the material that holds together concrete, is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions”.  Building a wall of this scale to cover the US Mexico border is no small task and the amount of cement needed and therefore the release of greenhouse gases could be damaging.
Utilizing Kant’s universality principle, we examine whether “Engineers will design and build structures knowing the construction could have costly impacts on the environment” can be universalized. If all engineers were to ignore the environmental impacts of their work, species and animals could become extinct and human lives could be put at risk. Because “Engineers are required to protect public health, safety and welfare as an ethical priority  in their work”, building this wall would be unethical.
In February, this year only 35%  of U.S. voters supported Trump’s plans to build a wall. As engineers, we have a relationship with and a duty to these people in addition to the Mexican citizens who broadly oppose the plans. Care ethics asserts that there is a moral value in our relationships and that we should weigh these values in our decisions. Citizens of both nations place their trust in engineers demanding that they serve their visions of a just society. We must uphold this relationship of trust.
Of greater importance, however is our relationships with the vulnerable people who will be further marginalised by the wall and who lack a voice in our society. There are approximately 250,000  illegal workers in U.S. agriculture industry. Mexicans form the backbone of this largely Southern industry by filling low wage jobs in the hope of a better life. Driving a physical barrier through these farms will strangle the free movement of this workforce harming the prospects of the both the workers and the farm owners and again betraying their trust.
Group 12: Andreas Georgakarakos, Carlos, Kelsey Doland, Andrew