By D. Allan Kerr
Apparently the only two options for dealing with U.S.-Mexico border security are either a $25 billion wall or a $5 welcome mat.
Unless, of course, you’re actually looking to resolve the problem and not just playing on the fear and stupidity of voters. But what’s being portrayed as a Republican vs. Democrat issue is really just a matter of considering common-sense solutions.
Will Hurd is a Texas Republican and former undercover CIA officer whose U.S. congressional district includes more miles along the border than any other in Congress. Which means he’s more politically and personally invested in border security than most other lawmakers.
Hurd calls the construction of a wall the “most expensive, least-effective way to do border security.”
“We shouldn’t be looking at a 4th-century solution to a 21st century problem,” he has said.
Hurd proposes installing a “smart wall” instead, utilizing modern technology like drones, sonar and radar, which he says could more effectively monitor the border at a fraction of the cost. He has in fact proposed a bill called the SMART Act, which stands for Secure Miles with All Resources and Technology (which in itself is pretty clever.)
Whereas construction costs for a proposed wall are estimated at about $24.5 million a mile, Hurd’s plan using resources like sensor technology would cost about half a million per mile.
“We can deploy sensors that determine whether a bunny rabbit or a person is coming across the border,” the CIA veteran said last year. “We should be efficient, we should be effective, and we should be making sure the men and women that are putting themselves in harm’s way have all the data they need in order to do their job.”
When the late, great Arizona senator and war hero John McCain published his last book – The Restless Wave – shortly before his death this year, he too advocated for technology over concrete.
“A wall along the southern border isn’t going to solve the problem,” McCain wrote. “It might make it worse.”
The cost of a “dubious barrier” would divert resources from more effective enforcement, including bolstering the ranks of Border Patrol agents, he noted. As both a longtime congressman of a border state and a career military man, McCain had a deeper understanding of these issues than most folks currently in the White House.
Donald Trump has repeatedly proven he has little understanding of issues as complex as border security. His is almost always the simplest, most basic approach, the one requiring the least analysis and contemplation. Sometimes that’s not a bad approach. But we’re easing into 2019 now.
He is, of course, convinced he knows more about this subject than CIA experts, retired military officers and lawmakers along the very border being secured. The reality is, a wall is something even Trump can comprehend.
But as McCain wrote in his last book, “Build a thirty-foot wall, and someone will get rich building thirty-foot ladders.”
And so in clinging to his fool’s notion that he’s right and everyone else is wrong, Trump is allowing a major part of the government to shut down until he gets his way, messing with the paychecks of some 800,000 workers in the process.
If it wasn’t such a waste of time, money, energy and resources, part of me wishes we DID put up his damn wall. It would almost be worth it to observe the stunned reactions of supporters when they fail to see America become the Paradise promised with its construction.
I’m inclined to believe Trump doesn’t really want to have the thing built, because of the very promises he’s made. He has to go thru the motions, naturally, in order to keep the right-wing media nuts happy.
But say the wall gets built and – shockingly – life doesn’t miraculously improve for unhappy Americans. What’s he going to tell his supporters when people are still getting raped and murdered, the drug crisis hasn’t vanished, voters still don’t have the jobs they want and their lives are still miserable?
If Trump does build his wall, either illegal immigrants will continue to find their way into the country – proving he made a dumbass $25-billion mistake – or all illegal immigration will end and we’ll still have crime and poverty and people will realize these folks weren’t the root of all their problems after all. Either way, he’ll lose.
The question is whether we’re going to pay the bill for this ego exercise – which was supposed to be funded by Mexico in the first place – or just cut to the part where we actually address the problem.
D. Allan Kerr remembers a Republican icon’s seminal moment in calling for a wall to be torn down, not built up.
(Dec. 29, 2018)