“Fixed fortifications are monuments to man’s stupidity. If mountain ranges and oceans can be overcome, anything made by man can be overcome.” Attributed to Gen. George Patton
Suppose I want to build a house. I go to a contractor and he says, “Give me $500,000 and I’ll build you a beautiful house.”
I ask where it will be built, and he says he has no land yet, but will find something wonderful. I ask how big the house will be and what features it will include. He assures me it will be perfect for me. I ask what materials he will use, and he says only the best. I ask to look over the plans and specifications, and he tells me he doesn’t have any, but he knows it will be great. Is it a good idea for me to hand over the money and trust everything will work out perfectly? I hope no one is that stupid.
This example covers just a few of the difficulties that will be faced in building an actual border wall. First, does President Donald Trump know exactly where he wants the wall located? The terrain along the entire border needs to be studied to see what kind of structures would fit where. Engineers have to determine what the land can handle.
Trump then needs to acquire the land. There are hundreds of border residents who don’t want their land taken. After the 2006 Secure Fence Act, there were 334 lawsuits filed against the G.W. Bush administration regarding land seizures for 700 miles of fence; 60-70 are still active. (Washington Post, 1/10/19) Imagine how many years will be spent in court fighting Trump’s land grab.
Environmental and archeological studies must be done to try to minimize the destruction of fragile environments and cultural treasures. Existing border barriers have caused damage such as floods by obstructing the natural flow of water. A bigger structure will cause far greater damage, and this must be studied.
Trump then needs to develop prototypes that can’t be breached. The existing prototypes can easily be overcome, including sawing though steel slats. A whole new type of structure must be created and tested.
Tunneling is a problem. Several sections of current physical barriers have tunnels underneath. One tunnel, the Galvez Tunnel, is 70 feet deep and 762 feet long. Some tunnels even have railroad tracks. The Border Patrol has agents called tunnel rats who find and block tunnels as fast as they can, but for every tunnel they destroy, a new one is dug. How will a wall prevent tunneling along the 1,954 mile border?
Trump also needs a wall that can prevent aircraft from flying over it or boats from going around it. Most drugs brought into the country come by air or sea. Will a wall keep boats from landing along the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf Coasts or airplanes from flying into the U.S.?
These problems will take years to solve before one foot of dirt is dug for an actual wall. A smarter and more effective way to improve border security is to do what President Barack Obama did — increase Coast Guard patrols, hire more Border Patrol agents, increase drug-identifying technology at legal ports of entry, increase surveillance using drones, cameras, and helicopters, locate physical barriers strategically, and increase the number of immigration judges so immigrants seeking asylum can have hearings quickly, and then either be admitted legally or be sent back to their home countries.
The choice is not between a wall or open borders. The choice is between effective and ineffective methods of border security. A wall would be expensive and ineffective. Under Obama, the influx of undocumented immigrants dropped dramatically; a sea-to-sea wall wasn’t necessary.
On a side note, Trump claims the wall is already being built in some areas. In fact, the repair and renovation of certain existing physical barriers is being funded by money approved under the 2006 Act. No new money has been appropriated for Trump’s wall. This is just another example of the falsehoods surrounding this issue, including the lie that Democrats want open borders.
Even if Trump gets his money (and remember, Democrats offered him $25 billion in January 2018 and Trump refused; clearly not a national emergency), building a wall will take years. In the meantime, thousands of roads, bridges, dams, and other types of infrastructure are falling apart. Perhaps we need to get our priorities straight and work on rebuilding our country, not a giant monument to stupidity.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.