The Trump Border Wall is the idea that just won’t die, in spite of the fact that there are so many reasons why it can’t happen, including these.
General George S. Patton Jr., said, “Fixed Fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man. Anything built by man can be destroyed by him.” So it goes for the wall that President-Elect Donald Trump promises to build, at Mexico’s expense, across the 1,980 miles of border we share with them.
The longest part of the wall would pass through Texas, where much of the border consists of the Rio Grande River. But international treaties prohibit the U.S. and Mexico from building structures on the river’s flood plain, and there is considerable private property on many portions of the American side of the river. Using eminent domain to secure easements, is politically and legally problematic. Additionally per mile construction expenses are prohibitive, with estimates ranging from $500 thousand to $15 million, because the overall terrain is daunting. Desert, scrub, savanna and mountains are the major obstacles, pegging the cost of such a wall at nearly $15 billion. With cost overruns a common feature of government projects, the “sky’s the limit.” Compelling Mexico to pay for the wall is a non-starter. Congress is not going to alienate an ally and fellow member of the Organization of American States, by imposing special taxes on cross-border earnings, as proposed by Mr. Trump.
A wall, regardless of height, can be scaled, and razor wire on top is easily breached with simple tools or by throwing heavy cloth over the barbs. Building it even 4 stories deep won’t stop tunneling by crime cartels who have virtually unlimited financial resources. Just last Spring an underground passage with rail tracks and electric lighting connecting the basements of two private houses, was discovered deep under the walled border between Tijuana, Mexico, and San Ysidro, California. Even the Great Wall of China was overcome by Genghis Khan and the Mongol invaders. Gen. Patton’s caution resonates.
Nor has Mr. Trump addressed how to police his wall. The U.S. Border Patrol has 22,000 officers to cover the entire U.S., with perhaps a quarter of them on duty at any given time. A wall nearly 2,000 miles long could be studded with sensors and other technology and surveilled by aircraft, but when a breach is detected, humans have to respond to investigate and, if necessary, make arrests. At least 3 border patrol agents are needed to take a person into custody and transport them to a holding facility. Based on long-standing Border Patrol policing guidelines and experience, a wall this long would be subjected to scores of ongoing breaches at various points, requiring about 70,000 officers to be on regular patrol, for a total force (working in rotating platoons}, of about 280,000 people. Keep in mind that the White House grounds cover only 18 acres, but need over 1,000 U.S. Secret Service and Park Police on duty, to stop intrusions.
Since federal law prohibits state officers from policing our national borders, and the Posse Comitatus Act generally precludes using the U.S. Military to enforce civilian laws, we don’t have adequate federal law enforcement personnel to monitor such a wall. If Congress were to appropriate untold billions to build the wall and the technology to watch it, is it realistic to think they would authorize more billions to employ an army of border officers along with more aircraft, boats and vehicles? Even if they did there is the time factor. It would take a decade to complete the infrastructure, hire, train and deploy border patrol enforcement and support staff.
The wall is not a solution to securing U.S. borders, any more than the 46 year old War On Drugs has eliminated our national drug epidemic. An attack on supply is patently fruitless. Rather, it is demand that must be tackled. But America doesn’t want to look at problems of its own making. Finger pointing abroad is easier, and plays better to an uninformed public. And let’s not forget our borders with Canada, the one crossed by the 9/11 Hijackers. 4,000 miles along the lower 48 states and 1,540 miles at the Alaska/Canada frontier. They have no walls and require a substantial border patrol presence.
Effective border controls are best attained by examining why people risk entering our country unlawfully. Drug demands, job availability and public benefits in America are big attractions, but the issue remains a complex and chaotic one that can only be addressed by coordinated efforts between the U.S. and Mexico. If we don’t learn from the past half-century of failures in this realm, the United States will never have properly protected borders.