Opinion | Knopf: Border wall a monumentally bad idea
December 18, 2018
"We can't use a 14th century solution to solve a 21st century problem." — Representative Henry Cuellar, 26th Congressional District, Texas/Mexico Border
Let me recommend for your holiday viewing pleasure, our president threatening to shut down our government if he doesn't get a hefty down payment on his $67 billion border wall with Mexico. Just look up YouTube Trump Pelosi.
According to Mark Zandi of Moody's Analytics, it costs our economy, that's all of us, more than $1 billion per day, every day the government is shut down.
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky admitted, "It costs us more to shut down the government than to keep it open." He confessed he made a mistake when he voted to shut it down Oct. 1–16, 2013. Zandi estimated that shut down cost $20 billion. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said, "My experience has been that shutdowns don't help anybody."
So what could be more important to a conservative than the economy? Pride? Politics? Outgoing Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, and a ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee said, "We can't let politics get in the way of our efforts to strengthen border security and protect our country."
Isn't that what the wall is supposed to do? Trump in his pathetic, petulant performance claimed the wall is 100 percent effective where it has been installed. Of course we know from Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact that Trump's statements are false, or partially false 70 percent of the time. For the record, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found the current 654 mile pedestrian wall was breached 9,287 times between 2010 and 2015.
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Trump has a better than typical track record for keeping his campaign promises. He passed his tax bill, which helped only the uber rich. He stopped immigration from a list of Islamic countries, dividing families and fueling protests. He appointed two controversial conservative Supreme Court judges causing demonstrations and a loss of confidence in the high court. Thus he must build his promised wall. But what about his promise Mexico would pay for it?
As the Mueller investigation unfolds and more of Trump's advisers plead guilty and tie their crimes directly to Trump, it looks like Trump may be the first President to be convicted of a felony. So he wants some tribute to himself to show he was a really "great guy;" he needs his "great" wall.
According to Rep. Henry Cuellar D-TX, his constituents don't want a wall built on their private properties. We have a nearly two-thousand-mile border with Mexico, 67 percent of that is in private hands. More than half that border is water, rivers. The Santa Cruz River crosses the border from the U.S. into Mexico, then makes a 45-mile U-turn back into the USA, heading toward Tucson, AZ. There are so many twists and turns of these rivers that some debate the actual length of the border.
Ranchers don't want their animals cut off from watering at the Rio Grande, the Colorado River and other rivers. Trump also wants to impose walls within the Rio Grande floodplain, a violation of international treaties.
And who really wants a big ugly wall on your historic family ranch?
Apparently the president also doesn't understand the value of our trade relationship with Mexico. On one local bridge in his district, Cuellar says 14,000 trucks move $1.5 billon dollars in cargo every single day. No one wants border security that hurts business.
A wall is also the most expensive and not the most effective solution to curb undocumented immigration. For the record, according to Rep. Henry Cuellar, border officers want other law enforcement tools more than they want a wall. That's because a wall really isn't much of a deterrent. You know what goes over a wall? A ladder. You know what goes under a wall? A tunnel. And there are lots of tunnels, moving people and narcotics. People also move through the legal gateways, hidden in cargo, even disguised as upholstery.
Cuellar says, "Instead of a wall, we should increase the use of modern technology, including cameras, fixed towers and aerial and underground sensors. Violent drug cartels are using more modern technology to breach our border than we are using to secure it."
Cuellar also advocates hiring more border personnel, but notes agent ranks have declined by nearly 2000 officers in the past few years. With the attrition rate projected to be 6 percent, almost 1,400 agents per year, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is having a difficult time fulfilling hiring goals, and jobs are often outsourced.
David Aguilar, a former acting commissioner of CBP and now a principal at Global Security and Innovative Strategies, a consulting firm in Washington told the New York Times, "Technology is definitively first. …These are things that can be used on any part of the border. There are places where you just can't put a wall." Cuellar agrees. For far less money, a far more effective strategy can be implemented which allows agents to be tasked directly to illegal border crossings in real time.
According to the CBP, one mile of pedestrian fencing costs $6.5 million. Repairs to existing fencing cost more than $7 million during the five-year period ending in 2015. So far $1.6 billion has been allocated for fencing repairs, but none of that money can pay for any of Trump's eight wall prototypes revealed in March of this year. Trump is demanding $5 billion for his wall or he says he will be "proud to shut down the government for border security." It's not clear he has the Republican votes to shut down the government, but if he does, CNN reports any shutdown would be partial. Congress has already funded about 75 percent of the federal government through September 2019, including the Pentagon, Veteran's Affairs and the Departments of Energy, Labor and Health and Human Services. The president signed those funding bills.
No surprise. A lot of bluster, a lot of posturing, and not much to show for it.
Susan Knopf is a Summit County resident. She has won awards from the Associated Press and United Press International for her news reporting.
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