The Transylvania Times -

Walls: Smart Or Physical?


February 11, 2019

During his State of the Union address, President Trump claimed that El Paso, Texas, was one of the most dangerous cities in the country until a “powerful barrier” was built to reduce illegal immigration and crime.

That statement is false according to El Paso Sheriff Richard Wiles. Wiles told ABC News, “It is sad to hear President Trump state falsehoods about El Paso, Texas, in an attempt to justify the building of a 2,000-mile wall. While it is true that El Paso is one of the safest cities in the nation, it has never been considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities. And El Paso was a safe city long before any wall was built.”

Statistics seem to support Wiles. According to the Uniform Crime Reports from the FBI, between 1993 and 2006, the number of violent crimes dropped 34 percent in El Paso. Between 2005 and 2007, El Paso had the third lowest violent crime rate among 35 U.S. cities with a population over 500,000. Construction on the border fence did not begin until 2008.

Physical walls rarely work. Walls may be a deterrent to people making a half-hearted attempt to enter a residence or country, but they are not significant barriers for able-bodied ingenuous or desperate people determined to circumvent the walls. All that’s required to scale a 20-foot wall is a 25-foot ladder. Federal agents have found more than 200 tunnels under current wall-like structures along the border.

The president has repeatedly said the situation along the border is a national emergency, but that claim is political theater. If the president and his fellow Republicans in Congress thought the situation was an emergency, why didn’t they resolve the issue during the last two years when they controlled Congress? Why wasn’t the issue addressed day one? (If people have an emergency in their house, such as it being on fire or having broken water pipes due to freezing temperatures, they wouldn’t wait two weeks before they called the fire department or a plumber.)

In 2015, then Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R. - S.C.), who is now the acting White House Chief of Staff, said, “The bottom line is the fence doesn’t stop anybody who really wants to get across. You go under, you go around … So, it’s easy to tell people what they want to hear – ‘build the darn fence, vote for me’.”

Building this particular wall would require taking the land of thousands of people, many of whom are not interested in relinquishing their property. It would be incredibly costly to just purchase the land, as well as fighting the numerous lawsuits that landowners would file. According to a 2017 study by Pro Publica and The Texas Tribune, the cost of procuring just 128 miles required 345 cases of land condemnations. A lawyer and a banker received $5 million for six acres.

All of the members of Congress who represent the districts along the Mexican border oppose the wall, including Rep. Will Hurd, a former CIA employee. Hurd, whose district stretches more than 800 miles along the border, issued a press release stating, “Building a wall is the most expensive and least effective way to secure the border.” 

Hurd presented some logical options to a wall in an opinion piece written in August of 2017. He wrote, “We have access to existing sensor technology that can determine the difference between a jack rabbit and a human moving across the desert. We have drones that can track individuals anywhere on the planet.”

Hurd and others advocate the implementation of a “Smart Wall” – sensors, radar, drones, etc. – that would allow Border Patrol agents the ability to watch over large desolate portions of the border and respond accordingly when there are crossings.

Hurd noted that using such technology and tactics also would be must less expensive than a physical wall. He said that based on the Trump administration’s own figures, a border wall would cost $24.5 million per mile. Using surveillance technology that already exists would cost less than $500,000 per mile. That’s a savings of $24 million per mile. What American taxpayer in his or her right mind would want to pay an unnecessary $24 million per mile for a lesser form of border security?

Building a physical wall would be a costly and ineffective way to improve border security. The better way to enhance border security is to employ the latest technology, hire more Border Patrol agents and increase security at legal ports of entry where most illegal drugs flow into the country.


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