Trump’s border “wall” was never conceived as a real-life, effective “barrier,” but intended more as a symbol—as a tangible, real metaphor of the hatreds, insecurities, and prejudices held by millions of Americans that he exploited to get himself elected.
The idea that a physical barrier or “wall” would impose any real constraints on the efforts of undocumented immigrants attempting to cross into the United States to obtain employment was roundly rejected and found essentially useless by anyone who actually analyzed its potential effectiveness. As Trump and every Republican who supported him knew, poor people from Latin America and Mexico were always going to find ways of circumventing or overcoming such physical barriers, particularly when their employment at substandard wages continued to be a critical component of American corporations’ profitability.
So there was never any question that these folks were going to continue to struggle to come in to this country, particularly given the hostile and often deadly circumstances they faced in their home countries. And in fact, they have continued to “come in” to work here because corporate America needs and wants them, mostly to do the jobs—in agriculture, construction, food services and elder care— that most white Americans really don’t want their kids doing, but also, and most importantly, to ensure–and insure– those same corporations’ bottom lines.
Of course, that didn’t deter Trump, Stephen Bannon, or the other purveyors of this winking-and-nodding, race-baiting , white supremacist ethic (some might call it a “stench”) that now permeates the entire Executive Branch of our government. No, they knew all along that it was merely the idea of a wall that attracted and energized Trump’s base of support. Because that wall was a comforting illusion for millions of resentful, white working-class men and women that someone was doing something, somewhere, to put the blame on someone else for the problems, obstacles and failures they had suddenly begun to experience as the result of being pinned haplessly to the butt end of America’s beloved “capitalist” economic system.
And that was good enough for most of Trump’s supporters. It was simply a variation on “blame the blacks” theme that the Republican Party had employed to address every white persons’ grievance for the last 50 years.
The taxpayer-funded barrier — so far coming with a $10 billion price tag — was a central theme of Trump’s 2016 campaign, and he has made the project a physical symbol of his presidency, touting its construction progress in speeches, ads and tweets. Trump has increasingly boasted to crowds in recent weeks about the superlative properties of the barrier, calling it “virtually impenetrable” and likening the structure to a “Rolls-Royce” that border crossers cannot get over, under or through.
Nearly three years later, after all of Trump’s constant bluster, only a tiny section of his vaunted “wall” has been built, not by Mexico (as he had promised), but by by his administration diverting billions of dollars that had been allocated by American taxpayers and Congress to real, genuine, “security” concerns, most vividly by compromising the readiness and infrastructure of the United States’ military.
But, as it turns out, even those little sections of “wall” have proved to be fundamentally useless:
SAN DIEGO — Smuggling gangs in Mexico have repeatedly sawed through new sections of President Trump’s border wall in recent months by using commercially available power tools, opening gaps large enough for people and drug loads to pass through, according to U.S. agents and officials with knowledge of the damage.
The breaches have been made using a popular cordless household tool known as a reciprocating saw that retails at hardware stores for as little as $100. When fitted with specialized blades, the saws can slice through one of the barrier’s steel-and-concrete bollards in minutes, according to the agents, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the barrier-defeating techniques.
Admittedly, “sawing through” the wall with a cheap store-bought saw may have been unforeseeable to all but the most savvy Trump administration appointees. But there is an even more fundamental method that folks have been employing to overcome this fearsome barrier:
The smuggling crews have been using other techniques, such as building makeshift ladders to scale the barriers, especially in the popular smuggling areas in the San Diego area, according to nearly a dozen U.S. agents and current and former administration officials.
The cleverness of these people cannot be overstated, and must befuddle the administration’s most far-sighted strategic planners. Ladders? Really?
The Washington Post article linked above also describes how smugglers now simply cut a piece of the wall out, and then replace it after they have gone through, so as to hide the fact that they were ever there (something akin to Edmond Dantes’ methodology as described in Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, or for a more recent analogy, in Clint Eastwood’s “Escape from Alcatraz”). Amazing, isn’t it?
The Post article also contains some helpful schematics explaining just how easy it is to traverse Trump’s “wall” by ladder or by simply cutting through it. Interestingly, the U.S. government has declined to disclose just how many “breaches” of this type have occurred.
Border Patrol officials have responded rather testily to these criticisms, noting that ultimately they expect to utilize a system of sensors that could immediately detect the vibrations of someone trying to “saw” through the “wall.” But no one seems to have considered whether, say, a few “decoy” sawings or “vibrations” could divert the attention of our intrepid protectors on the border long enough to let a few people cross through at a different point of entry, perhaps miles and miles away.
The bottom line is that the “wall,” at this point, is a total joke.
But Trump always knew that. The real joke was on the people who voted for him.