The present situation has almost nothing to do with a border wall.
I submit that Mr. Trump is attempting to deceive his supporters, in that a continuous barrier along the US-Mexico border presently exists. In places, it’s completely ineffective, as it’s composed of concrete pylons aimed at stopping vehicles; in other areas, it’s demarcated, but physically is composed of natural barriers backed up by surveillance and human interception.
I further submit that the DNC, through the persons of its congressional leadership, is attempting to (likewise unjustly) paint the entire Republican Party, all hundred million of them, as racist and uncaring. By accepting without argument the illusory proposition that Mr. Trump has presented, they have attempted to reduce a complex issue best addressed by experts into a political conversation that they feel sounds like this:
RNC: Want wall now!
DNC: Walls are racist, dear. Go play.
RNC: Waaahhhh!!! [throws tantrum]
DNC: Racist! Go to your room!
It’s important to note that the DNC is staging it like this because they feel we couldn’t begin to comprehend anything more complex. In that, and with respect to the vast majority of the American public, they’re quite correct. (If you don’t believe that, might I recommend a few episodes of “Adam Ruins Everything”? You can stream it on Netflix. It’ll be good for you.)
In short (I know; too late), what the present argument is about is who is going to win the elections in 2020 — that and nothing else.
It’s Not About A Shutdown Either
I don’t want to get too involved in this point, but it needs to be mentioned: The government can be shut down because Congress can’t pass a real budget. The present fight is over a continuing resolution — a stopgap measure designed to delay any real discussion over budget and appropriations until a politically opportune moment. Given that our government has mainly operated on C.R.s for the past two decades, it’s evident that Congress finds most moments inopportune. Congress has been failing in its responsibilities for years, and recent presidents are merely using that as leverage.
It’s been argued that shutting down the government is unsafe; in some cases, this is true — but not because of the TSA. Most of the government does useful jobs; TSA is an exception. They don’t catch terrorists; at best they’re a deterrent, and a publicly ineffective one. It’s just security theater, and pretty expensive theater at that.
We can be upset that they’re quitting en masse; we can be upset that they’re useless; we can be upset about a lot of things. But if you want to be upset at people who aren’t doing their jobs, consider that the House, the Senate, and the President are all playing power games over a pretty minor point. They’re fighting the 2020 election using the budget as their playing board.
(Incidentally: Because government employees have until January 12 to use their accumulated leave from the preceding year, it’s pretty common for most agencies to be understaffed during this period. Granted, it’ll be inconvenient for a lot of people; anecdotally, I know one lady in particular who has nobody to process her Jan. 3 retirement and is compelled to work because she’s deemed essential. That’s only one of thousands of stories of hardship. But right now, the impact of the partial shutdown for the general population is minimal.)
Blame who you like. It’s certain that President Trump elected to use this tool, but let’s not forget that it’s Congress — Democrats and Republicans alike — that handed it to him and gave him their blessing.
Back To The Wall
Since 2008, when the El Paso/ Ciudad Juarez barrier was established, migrants have increasingly shifted their movements west through the Sonora Desert. Right now, five hundred people a year die attempting the crossing.
Given the price tag of $5 billion (we know it’ll cost more, but for the sake of discussion), that’s $10 million per life saved. Is a human life worth $10 million? And what about the lives saved in successive years? Amortize the cost over time and it’s a lot lower — about $700,000 per life.
Certainly, there are other methods by which this could be achieved. But a continuous physical barrier would be at least somewhat effective, and it’s the least expensive approach per life saved. Therefore, it only makes sense to start here and move on as need be.
Nobody is seriously arguing that we need to tear down the present barrier; the American people approve of border controls. Likewise, while there are tariffs, drug laws, and limits on immigration, there must be measures taken to physically restrict scofflaws and smugglers — and nobody is seriously objecting to that. If they were, ending the War On Drugs would negate much of the need for border controls.
So it’s not about a wall at all, if you come right down to it. It’s about the United States lacking the political will to achieve other solutions.
If it were simply about a wall, there’d be no argument.
Well, no… that’s not quite true. There are some jackasses out there who’d say that Mexican lives aren’t worth American dollars. But we’ll ignore them.
The writer would like to thank Darick Robertson (@DarickR) for his invaluable assistance in researching this piece. All views expressed are, of course, my own.