One of the issues that has driven Donald Trump’s popularity and campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination is security, or lack thereof, on the southern U.S. border. The reality of the sieve-like stretch that runs between Mexico, our not so law and order conscious neighbor to the south, and four U.S. states is that the integrity of the border is non-existent. Furthermore, the current administration is doing next to nothing to rectify the situation.
So, when Donald Trump declared that he was going to build a wall (and Mexico was going to pay for it), Americans concerned with illegal aliens running loose in the lower 48 grabbed onto the idea like a lifeline. The real question, though, is is the wall “feasible.” After all, the terrain along the border is desert, mountains, river, and forest. That’s quite a lot to be able to deal with using a single method of deterrent. Fox News’ William La Jeunesse took a trip down to the border itself to find out just what is going on down there, and whether or not the wall will make a difference.
From his expose, we see that the border “fence” is currently a patchwork of different systems erected at different times over the course of the last few decades. For 36 miles mostly through Yuma, Arizona, there is actually part of the double steel fence where a number of feet between the lines of fencing allows the border personnel to get to problem spots. This is a portion of the 700 mile fence that President George W. Bush signed into law in 2006, and is the most secure spot on the border itself. At this time, construction of it has stopped due to the expense ($6 million per mile), as the money set aside for it has run out. Other places along the border have World War II era landing strip scrap steel welded together that smugglers and coyotes have no problem cutting through with a blow torch. One American living close to the border took La Jeunesse to a place where the border fence was four strands of barbed wire. And then there’s the countless miles where there is nothing to even mark where the border is. (That doesn’t count what the cartels do to the fence in other spots. Read about that here.)
So, given the realities of the distance and terrain of the U.S. southern border, the question of “is it feasible” when posed to the border patrol was a “no” even if at a minimum fences do work at least to slow down the crossers. That doesn’t mean with the right engineering it can’t be done (seriously none of these guys work for the Army Corps of Engineers, and those people keep rivers in their banks during floods), but that a wall by itself would need to be just one part of many components to help make the border secure. What the border agents say they need on top of a wall or fence (the double fence or the pedestrian fence are their preferences) is more agents, and better and more surveillance equipment.
Agents call the strategy “defense in depth.” What it means is a fence provides a primary barrier. It is backed up by ground sensors and cameras and radar mounted on tall poles that detect movement. That information is picked up in operation centers, which relay it to field agents who can then locate and arrest the perpetrators.
“It is a layered approach,” says Yuma Sector Chief Anthony Porvaznik. “The fence gives us time. The fence protects the agents. It lowers the risk and gives us time to respond to illegal activity. It slows people down. The cameras give a situational awareness so agents know what they’re about to encounter before they do.”
With 2,000 miles of border that means that we in the United States will need to invest quite a bit in order to really make that border secure. Regardless of what is decided in the end, security at the southern border is going to be expensive, and the people who benefit from illegal immigration are going to be against it. That doesn’t mean we can’t build a wall. Just that it isn’t going to be easy or cheap.