Border wall

Trump's 'Impenetrable' Barrier Meets a Saw

The Wall vs. Home Depot



Before he became president, Donald Trump promised to build an "impenetrable" barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border. "On Day One, we will begin working on an impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful southern border wall," he said in August 2016.

But if that barrier gets built, it looks like it'll be pretty, well, penetrable.

At first, Trump wanted a concrete wall. Now putting aside for a moment the many arguments against constructing a wall, concrete would tough to breach—though not impossible. A February 2018 Customs and Border Protection report, which KPBS obtained in September, stated that all eight of the steel and concrete border wall types ordered by the president were vulnerable to breaching, though many of the specific breaching techniques were redacted.

In any case, Trump has recently shifted to calling for a steel-slatted barrier. That way, border agents on the U.S. side can see what's happening on the Mexican side. But it also means people with the right sawing equipment can cut through the wall. At least, that's what a photo of a breached steel slat prototype obtained by NBC News shows:

NBC says the photo was taken after Marine Corps experts at "Pogo Row" (a testing location near the California-Mexico border) "were instructed to attempt to destroy the barriers with common tools."

San Diego Sector Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott tells NBC that the prototypes tested at Pogo Row were not as big as the ones toured by Trump when he visited the border in March. But that shouldn't matter much: If they're made of the same material, they should be vulnerable to the same breaching technique, no matter how big.

NEXT: A Real Wall Against a Fake Threat Won't Make America Safe Again

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  1. Holy Fuck! Did ‘Saws cut steel’ really just make the top of my news feed?

    1. Reason smells Vox blood in the water and wants a bigger piece of the lucrative Millennial-splainer Journolism market.

      1. Its official, Reason is staffed by morons.

    2. Setyon and Suderman are competing today for the Laziest Article of the Week Award.

      Suderman affirms the consequent and calls for the Senate to get involved in the shutdown, because Cocaine Mitch is something, something, something and that makes him responsible.

      Seyton notices that they’re in the early stages of testing various wall construction techniques, and imagines this makes it impossible to build a wall because not all potential materials pass. Wait until he finds out what might’ve happened if they tested a Styrofoam or balsa wood.

      Who’s today’s winner? Will Shikha make a surprise entry later on?

  2. “In any case, Trump has recently shifted to calling for a steel-slatted barrier”

    The move to a steel-slated barrier was an attempt to appease Pelosi and Schumer–so they could claim that they stopped Trump from building “wall”, under the pretext that a wall is made of concrete and a “fence” is made of steel.

    If and when Trump builds whatever you want to call it by way of invoking emergency powers, there’s no reason to think that he’ll stick to that steel fence idea. If Pelosi and Schumer aren’t compromising with him on funding, why would he compromise and only build a fence instead of a concrete wall?

    1. “so they could claim that they stopped Trump from building “wall”, under the pretext that a wall is made of concrete and a “fence” is made of steel.”


    2. Of course he wouldn’t. He is connected to the concrete-making organized crime outfits, not the steel manufacturing ones. No way to skim money off the top.

  3. Adamantium doesn’t actually exist. The right saw can cut any substance.

    1. The right saw can cut any substance.

      Except the Federal Budget.

      1. fuck that’s hilarious.

    2. The right saw can cut through any wall, but where is this logic going?

      Surely, you know that walls are made of a substance that can be repaired.

      1. You completely missed my point.

        A saw cutting something is nothing.


    And to think, I thought the border was was made of magic Mormon underwear that is impervious to any damage. If Congress will approve Fairy dust, it would add +5 to the border wall strength..

  5. Someone should mention, here, again, that there’s this thing called the perfect solution fallacy.

    “The perfect solution fallacy is a related informal fallacy that occurs when an argument assumes that a perfect solution exists or that a solution should be rejected because some part of the problem would still exist after it were implemented.[4]…..on_fallacy

    No, people aren’t being irrational when they quit smoking (doesn’t mean you’ll never get lung cancer), lock their car doors when they park their car at the airport for the weekend (doesn’t guarantee your car won’t be stolen), lock their doors at night or when they go on vacation (doesn’t guarantee you won’t be burglarized), or puts in a smoke detector (doesn’t guarantee no one will die in a fire).

    The question isn’t whether a wall will be 100% effective in preventing illegal immigration. The question is whether the benefit is justified by the cost. I happen to believe it isn’t because I think the benefits of a large supply of cheap labor are much greater than most people realize, but just because I oppose building a wall doesn’t mean I need to be irrational about it.

    1. This

      One can agree or disagree with a editorial position a writer here takes, but even when one is in agreement, the emotional appeals and fallacious arguments used are annoying as hell.

    2. Mike drop.

      1. My stance against the wall has nothing to do with TDS. I just think that if we’re going to hang $5 – $20 Billion on future generations for an infrastructure project, it should be on something like bridges, roads, networks, electrical grid updates…etc.

        If Trump/Congress is willing to pull the funds from the DOD budget as a form of national defense… Then I’m fine with that.

        1. ^Meant as a response to Ken. Not the dropped mic.

        2. ” just think that if we’re going to hang $5 – $20 Billion on future generations”

          I don’t care about future generations.

    3. The question isn’t whether a wall will be 100% effective in preventing illegal immigration. The question is whether the benefit is justified by the cost.

      While I think this is fair, there is the other side of this. Namely, Trump is literally promising an “Impenetrable” (and beautiful, to boot!) wall. It is not fallacious to say, “Hey people, that wall is not impenetrable. So if we have to spend the next 100 years rebuilding that wall as people cut through it, it perhaps it isn’t worth trying.”

      As you noted, this is a cost benefit analysis. While I agree that you cannot make perfect the enemy of the good, I see articles as pointing out that even the good isn’t going to be good enough. The reason for building the wall is that a significant people think it will be an effective mechanism for stopping some portion of illegal traffic. But if it can be cut through or otherwise surmounted in a half hour, then maybe it stops a smaller portion than people naturally assume. And if that portion becomes small enough (and expensive enough to maintain through repeated repairs) then the costs outweigh any foreseeable benefit.

      1. I don’t think the wall is worth it, but that’s where the size of the wall does matter, contrary to Reason’s glib dismissal. Yes, it’s quick and easy for a person with a gas powered saw to cut through a lightly reinforced 4″ concrete driveway, as DavidSs points out, but as the material gets thicker it’s not nearly as quick and easy, and the same is true for steel. That’s one of the reasons there are companies that specialize in saw cutting. Without seeing the actual design, pretending that anyone could run down to Home Depot and pick up a saw that can cut through the wall is no better than pretending that it will be impenetrable.

      2. It is not fallacious to say, “Hey people, that wall is not impenetrable.

        The early testing of materials and construction techniques doesn’t inform anyone about the durability of the final product. For Setyon to dub something a failure when we have no clue about its preliminary design or even what it’ll be made of, is patently idiotic.
        And Ken is right, Setyon’s entire argument is a perfect solution fallacy.

    4. Totally agree with your perfect solution fallacy analyses as it applies to this situation. But having more wall does not necessarily eliminate a large supply of cheap labor. By better controlling the border, we can institute a more robust seasonal worker visa program with registration and taxation. This would hopefully raise wages for these poor workers, which might incentivize more low wage American workers to accept some of these jobs. It is well established that the extremely low wages accepted by illegals have adversely affected low wage American workers, particularly African-Americans. Of course we would likely have to pay more for the products and services provided by migrants, but that is the humanitarian action to take. So much for the humanitarian tag given to democrats who refuse to promote this.

      1. “By better controlling the border, we can institute a more robust seasonal worker visa program with registration and taxation.”

        We can do that regardless of what happens at the border. That alone would help eliminate some of the illegal immigration.

  6. NBC. Lol.

    The network that employs Brian Williams and has been caught a few times fabricating shit?

    Totes trustworthy.

    Make your point but try to avoid using shitheads.

  7. I’m old school. Use bricks.

    Back in the day, you’d use Italians master mason/brick layers to make walls made of brick.

    1. Use bricks.

      Ah, I pictured a line of Palestinian youths behind a make-shift barricade hurling pavers at illegal immigrant invaders. But your way might work, too.

    2. Even older school: Using forced labor (serfs/slaves) to build walls made of stone.

  8. What, a SWAT battering ram can break down my front door? I guess I’ll just start leaving it wide open when I’m home or not home.

    1. We lock our door because it is a low effort/cost way to lower the probability that someone will gain entrance to our house. Even though a determined person can get into the house, because it is a low-effort/cost action, we still do it for the minor increase in safety.

      The wall is completely different. It is a huge expensive effort and cost- including taking land from American citizens to build it. That people can cause thousands or millions of dollars of damage to that wall- easily bypassing the small amount of security it brings- is completely relevant.

      1. The locked door prevents random drunks from wandering in. Which accounts for both times someone tried toe enter my home uninvited. One of them even threatened to call the cops on me for trespassing in his pad.

        Actual criminals require deterrents like alarms and warnings about Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson.

        But we were talking about immigrants, not criminals…

        1. “and warnings about Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson.”

          Forget the dog, BEWARE of owner.

  9. This wall issue is my favorite of all the Trump vs. TDS fights so far.

    If you care one way or another about this wall you are an idiot. Hate the wall? So what. It’s useless anyway.

    Love the wall? It’s not gonna work dumbass.

    Want to shut down the government over pro/anti wall funding? Go for it!

  10. I had to have part of my driveway replaced earlier this year.

    I was astonished at just how fast those $700 gas powered saws cut through concrete and rebar. Yes a driveway is usually only 4 inches thick, but you don’t need to make a huge hole in a wall to get through.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if it took less than a minute to cut through three slats of a fence of the style pictured.

    1. If you got Mexican immigrants toting gas-powered concrete saws through the desert I’d say let ’em in – those hombres want to work. Especially if they’re the kind that are quiet and small enough that they’re not easily detected by the most modest surveillance.

      But a modern house with the vinyl siding backed by foam board insulation can easily be broken into with a razor knife – probably still want to lock your door. It doesn’t stop everything, but it discourages the less-determined.

      1. It won’t be immigrants doing the damage. It will be the drug runners and convoy runners. It costs them a couple hundred bucks to get the equipment to damage a wall, and they can make thousands or millions of dollars of damage here.

        These constant analogies to “locking your door” are silly. There is some probability that kids are walking around your neighborhood checking car doors to see if they are unlocked. There is a lower probability that it is someone willing to risk the noise and attention of breaking a car window and that they will target your car. Those probabilities are completely different than the probability that there are simple immigrants trying to cross this one border and that there are organized drug runners and migrant traffickers with the money and desire to cut through that one wall.

        These differences in probability of incidence and effectiveness are what drive the cost analysis.

        I may lock my car door at night, but I don’t spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a laser fence and barbed wire to surround it. And I especially wouldn’t do that if I knew that someone could easily force me to make thousands of dollars of repairs with a simple saw.

    2. You had a concrete and rebar driveway that had to be replaced? 5/8″ rebar is tuff stuff. With a good base that drive way should have outlasted all the above ground structures. I sense someone got fucked by some illegal fly by labor!

      1. I had a driveway that was poured probably when the house was built in the 70s, in a single 16X38 foot slab with no expansion cuts, and what passed in the 70s for water management(two inches of rock)

        Actually it didn’t have rebar in it now that I think on it because it was poured in the 70s. Just that 2×4 fence wire

        I would not have replaced it had the city not done a sidewalk audit. Cracks through the sidewalk path must be replaced. Wasn’t allowed to mudjack it.

        I did have the rest of the drive mudjacked because I found out how inexpensive it was.

        On the plus side (for me at least), the contractor seems to have forgotten to bill me. Its been 3 months already.

  11. Uh, yeah, foreign steel maybe.

  12. The purpose of the wall isn’t to keep anyone out. Quite the reverse: the purpose is to use as a pretext to round up and detain bad hombres indefinitely: “We can’t send them back – the wall isn’t saw-proof yet you idiot!”

  13. Do these people not know about ladders?

    1. Oh sure they’ll just take a ladder over that wall. Next you’ll be telling me jet fuel can melt steel.

  14. This is stupid, and I still (God knows why) expect Reason to know better.

    Yes, the President is a farkin’ tool.

    But “impenetrable” does not mean “no possible tool given any amount of time, could ever get through it”, in such a use – because that’s now how real monkeys use English when babbling at each other.

    All it really means in a normal-monkey-babble analysis is that “you can’t just get through it easily”. Yes, that’s not Literally Impenetrable. No, that doesn’t matter. Yes, I actually apply that analysis even to politicians I don’t like, because I’m a grown-ass adult who realizes that pathetic snark isn’t the same as analysis.

    1. Except when Trump says “literally” he means it. Stop pretending he has even a slight toehold in reality.

      1. Wooo wooo, Resist!

  15. Placing just a FEW explosive devices (with warnings that they may be anywhere) should discourage most violators. Of course, there should also be an outer fence so that animals and children don’t accidentally stray into the dangerous area.

    1. What about the private property owners that would rather not have landmines placed on their property?

    2. Sure, what’s a war crime or two when we have grape pickers to keep out of the country?

      1. Just like Finland, India, South Korea, etc. the US isn’t a signatory to the Ottawa Treaty on landmines.

        Besides, don’t you lefties like molotov cocktails and IEDs?

  16. If Trump diverts money from the military budget to finance more wall, we should all be grateful there will be less money for bombs, missiles, etc. It’s a win, win.

  17. If Trump diverts money from the military budget to finance more wall, we should all be grateful there will be less money for bombs, missiles, etc. It’s a win, win.

  18. So if I carry a firearm for self-defense and someone coshes me from behind, then firearms are useless for self-defense.

    1. If I wear pants and still get an obscenity charge for lewd conduct, my trousers are pointless.

  19. Jetpacks. Think jetpacks. Useless! Give up!

  20. Hey, the Berlin Wall worked. Let’s hire the Russians and Germans to build and man our wall!

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