I’m sure you’ve heard the bad news: funding for President Trump’s wall along the southern border of the U.S. wasn’t included in the final budget deal. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tried to assure the American people that illegal immigration will still be stopped by insisting that border security will be enhanced in the near-term through fixing up many parts of the current border using 18-foot-high, six-foot-deep “bollard fences” and “levee walls.”
Spicer told reporters at a White House news conference that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly supports these barriers. “There are places along the border, and I would offer to you, down in the southern Rio Grande valley, where a wall — a concrete wall — makes all the sense in the world,” Kelly said to Bloomberg News.
“There are other places where a see-through wall, say a large bollard, if you will, fence, makes a lot of sense.” A bollard fence looks a lot like the barrier outside a modern jail — it’s a series of tall metal beams spaced close enough together (two or three inches) so a person can’t fit through. Unlike a chain-link fence, there’s no way to grip a bollard wall to climb over it.
The recent budget agreement funds “steel bollard designs” for “border fencing,” as opposed to a concrete wall, which Democrats were adamant was not included.
Presently, only one-third of the 1,900-mile-long border between the U.S. and Mexico has a permanent physical barrier between the two countries. While this may sound incredibly ineffective, the other two-thirds in most places are protected by natural features such as gorges, mountains, deserts and rivers (for instance, the Rio Grande River alone accounts for some 1,200 miles of the border).
In these cases, even if people manage to cross from Mexico to the United States, the existing natural features can make survivability near impossible. Certainly, in the Sonoran desert, many illegal border crossers have died of thirst. Many of these natural features make building physical barriers impractical or unworkable.
Where there are physical barriers currently, most of them are made out of metal — they’re not fences that air can pass through, but rather, corrugated sheets of steel recycled from the Iraq War. In some places, these sheets are topped with barbed wire. And in many places, there isn’t just one barrier, but several, separated by tens of feet of space — a “no man’s land” that’s heavily patrolled by border security — which isn’t to say that there aren’t key points where crossing the border is still possible, but suffice it to say, it isn’t a cakewalk.
Currently, the U.S. watches its borders via foot patrols, agents on horseback and the use of vehicles such as boats, planes, cars and bicycles. There are also drone aircraft, cameras and motion sensors employed. Still, of the roughly 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., it’s estimated that more than half crossed the U.S.-Mexican border unlawfully.
Studies have shown that in places where a barrier exists, it’s significantly cut down on illegal crossings by as much as 90 percent. It’s estimated that a full double-layer barrier for the length of the border where it’s physically practical and possible to build it would cost roughly $3.3 billion — less than 4 percent of the money spent annually on highway construction or the same amount spent fighting the Iraq War for 14 days.
Of course, wherever there are breaks in any of those barriers, the breaks make the remainder of the border much less effective. Currently, there are many gaps in the existing barriers that are big enough to drive through, reflecting various land rights battles and local political opposition to the barrier construction.
If and when President Trump is actually allowed to proceed with a concrete wall, analysts have said that it would require 9.5 million cubic meters worth of building components; this is three times the amount of material used to build the Hoover Dam. Cost estimates for President Trump’s wall have ranged from $10 billion to $67 billion. This includes land acquisition that in many cases would have to be accomplished via eminent domain.
A final vulnerability in the U.S.-Mexican border is at the two ends of the border that terminate at bodies of water; the western end meets the Pacific Ocean, while the eastern end meets the Gulf of Mexico. Physical barriers extend into the water in both places, but it’s possible to simply swim or boat around the barriers if you go out far enough. While the U.S. heavily surveils these areas as well, determined migrants can and do make their way around.
At some point, the U.S. will need to realize that ultimately, securing the border is a numbers game — it’s not a binary choice. For President Trump and Congress, the question is what will bring the most “bang for the buck,” in terms of security, peace of mind and keeping out people who would simply leech off our nation’s resources.
~ American Liberty Report