None other than Mick Mulvaney — who will be the White House’s acting chief of staff in 2019 — has been highly critical of the U.S./Mexico border wall that then-candidate Donald Trump was proposing. CNN unearthed a recording of Mulvaney’s appearance on South Carolina’s WRHI Radio on Aug. 25, 2015, when he told interviewer Patti Mercer that Trump’s proposal was a “simplistic” approach to a complex problem. Mulvaney used the word “fence” rather than “wall,” telling Mercer, “To just say, ‘Build the darn fence’ and have that be the end of an immigration discussion is absurd and almost childish for someone running for president.” But Mulvaney’s basic point was correct: Trump’s border wall idea lacks the sophistication needed to seriously address the United States’ immigration and border challenges.
Nonetheless, Trump hasn’t retreated from his terrible idea. He has doubled down on it, even going so far as to partially shut down the federal government and insisting that the shutdown will continue in 2019 unless Congress comes up with $5 billion to pay for his wall. And Trump’s idea is offensive not only because of the xenophobia and extreme isolationism it is promoting — it is also a joke from a security standpoint and will not decrease illegal immigration, the president’s supposed goal.
Here are five reasons why, according to the U.S. Border Patrol and other agencies, Trump’s proposed border wall is laughable from a security standpoint.
- The U.S. Border Patrol Says It Needs an Investment in High-Tech Surveillance Equipment, Not a Concrete Wall
Although racism and xenophobia are an effective way for President Trump to rally his far-right base, the GOP talking point that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other prominent Democrats oppose a U.S./Mexico border wall because they favor “open borders” is absolute nonsense. And if one actually listens to what Democrats have to say on the subject, it is obvious that they have been quite aggressive on border security (deportations reached an all-time high under President Barack Obama). Pelosi, Schumer and other Democrats have been calling for greater investment in high-tech surveillance equipment, stressing that it would be a much stronger deterrent to coyotes (those who smuggle illegal immigrants) and drug smugglers than a wall.
The specific things that Pelosi and Schumer called for in a joint statement in late 2017 included “new technology, drones, air support, sensor equipment.” In fact, a report from Senate Democrats released earlier this year found that the U.S. Border Patrol’s equipment requests were being underfunded.
- Tunnels Can Be Built Underneath a Wall
Drug traffickers have found that building underground tunnels is an effective way to smuggle heroin or cocaine into the U.S., and if a tunnel can be illegally built underneath a fence, it can also be built underneath a concrete wall. From 2007-2010, the U.S. Border Patrol found, on average, at least one underground tunnel per month along the U.S./Mexico border. Surveillance equipment can detect these tunnels, but Trump and other Republicans prefer the symbolism of a wall over technological solutions.
- Border Patrol Agents Can See Through Fences, But Not Concrete Walls
Rather than help U.S. Border Patrol agents with their surveillance needs, a concrete border wall could actually make surveillance more difficult. With a fence, an agent can see what’s on the other side. A U.S. Border Patrol agent told right-wing Fox News that “a cinder block or rock wall, in the traditional sense, isn’t necessarily the most effective or desirable choice. Seeing through a fence allows agents to anticipate and mobilize, prior to illegal immigrants actually climbing or cutting through the fence.”
- Most Illegal Immigrants in the U.S. Have Overstayed Their Visas
According to data from the Department of Homeland Security, the vast majority of illegal immigrants living in the U.S. in 2016 did not cross the border illegally. Most of them entered the U.S. legally but overstayed their visas. So a wall on the U.S./Mexico border wouldn’t have kept them out.
- Not All Illegal Immigrants Enter the U.S. Via the U.S.-Mexico Border
It’s no coincidence that Trump is obsessed with a U.S./Mexico border wall but has never proposed one for the U.S./Canada border: Canadians are more likely to be white. But a July 2018 article for the Guardian reported that while there are a lot more arrests for illegal border crossings along the U.S./Mexico border than along the U.S./Canada border, “the human smuggling is just as sophisticated” up north. Coyotes, according to the Guardian, are often paid $4000 for smuggling people into Vermont from Quebec—and the Guardian quoted U.S. Border Patrol Agent Richard Ross as saying that the coyotes are “very well organized.” Further, coyotes can smuggle people into the U.S. illegally via ships. Immigrants can also fly into the U.S. legally from Europe, Asia or South America and not return when they are supposed to.