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Why the Wall Won't Work

The legal, practical, economic, and moral case against Trump's border barrier.

Donald Trump captured the imagination of many American voters with a single campaign promise. "I will build a great, great wall on our southern border," he boasted in June 2015. For good measure, he added, "And I will have Mexico pay for that wall." The twin pledges—which followed a tirade about Mexican rapists and drug dealers—neatly captured everything that was either attractive or repulsive to voters in the real estate mogul's presidential run: bravado, nationalism, and controversy.

Joanna AndreassonJoanna AndreassonTrump was often criticized for lacking precision in policy ideas, but he had bold and detailed requirements for his wall. It would be 1,000 miles long. (The other 1,500, he said, were covered by "natural barriers.") He gave various estimates of its height—between 30 and 50 feet, with the most common number being 35. His barrier would be an "impenetrable physical wall" composed of "precast [concrete] plank…30 feet long, 40 feet long." He also insisted that it would be aesthetically pleasing.

While he said after the election that a fence may be appropriate in "some areas," he added that a wall would be better, and he has since vigorously corrected reporters who describe the project as a "fence." Throughout the campaign, he described the current fences as a "joke," implying that he would not only build a superior barrier, but that he would replace the one that exists at some points now.

The History

The president's proposal has a decadeslong history. After the 1986 "amnesty," when President Ronald Reagan traded increased border security for the legalization of 3 million unauthorized immigrants, the San Diego Border Patrol constructed a 10-foot welded steel fence along the 14-mile section of the border closest to the Pacific. In 1996, a new law provided funds for a second layer. Despite repeated requests from the Border Patrol for more, by the year 2000 just 60 miles of the southern border had fencing, almost all of which was in urban areas. Only San Diego had a second layer.

After 9/11, border hawks launched another push for fences, with little success. Most immigration enforcement funds were going to a surge in border agents. But President George W. Bush's push for comprehensive immigration reform, which would have legalized the unauthorized immigrants in the United States, gave the hawks their opportunity. In 2006, Congress approved the Secure Fence Act mandating nearly 700 miles of fencing on the border.

The president signed on to the bill hoping to placate the secure-the-border-first crowd and obtain the humane immigration changes that he wanted. This sales job enabled it to pass with bipartisan support from the likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The immigration reform never materialized, but fence construction was nearly complete by 2009, and there are now 617 total miles of physical barriers, 36 miles of which have two layers.

Yet the hawks were not placated. They complained that there was no second layer in most places. They stewed that half the fence was just "vehicle barriers"—concrete posts that provide obstacles for drivers but not pedestrians. Moreover, the 317 miles of real pedestrian fences dramatically vary in height and quality. The Border Patrol uses half a dozen types of fencing materials—wire mesh, landing mats, chain-link, bollard, aesthetic, and sheet piling—just to control on-foot crossings. These barriers are mainly a combination of steel posts and bars supplemented in places with wire, ranging in height from 6 to 18 feet.

The Legal Obstacles

Trump has been adamant that his wall will be built "ahead of schedule." For that to happen, he'll need to avoid the various legal issues that plagued earlier efforts. Entities other than the federal government—states, Indian tribes, private individuals—control over two-thirds of borderland property. Private parties own the vast majority of the border in Texas, and for this reason, roughly 70 percent of the existing border fence is located in California, Arizona, and New Mexico. Almost all of it is on federally controlled land.

The Bush administration bullied property owners, threatening to sue them if they did not "voluntarily" hand over the rights to their land. It offered no compensation for doing so. Thinking that they had no recourse, some people signed off, but others refused. The government then attempted to use eminent domain, a procedure Trump has long defended, to seize their property, but the lawsuits imposed serious delays—seven years in one case.

In 2009, the Homeland Security inspector general concluded that the Border Patrol had "achieved [its] progress primarily in areas where environmental and real estate issues did not cause significant delay." One intransigent resident had owned his property since before the "Roosevelt easement," which gives the federal government a 60-foot right of way along the border. He fought the administration, so the fence had until recently a 1.2-mile gap on his land. Border residents fought more than a third of all land transfers, in fact. Because the Constitution promises just compensation for takings, Trump can do little to speed this process.

Native American tribes also have the capacity to stop construction of barriers. The Tohono O'odham Nation, which has land on both sides of the border, has already pledged to fight any efforts to build a wall there. In 2007, when the tribe allowed vehicle barriers to be constructed, the Bush administration ended up desecrating Indian burial grounds and digging up human remains. The new president would need a stand-alone bill from Congress to condemn their land. Senate Democrats can (and likely would) filibuster such an effort.

Even federal lands can be problematic. In 2010, two-thirds of patrol agents-in-charge told the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that land management laws had delayed or limited access to portions of federal lands, for fence building or repairs and other purposes, with more than half stating they did not get a timely response when they requested permission to use the lands. In one case, it took nearly eight months for the Border Patrol to get the OK to install a single underground sensor.

Water rights have also been a problem for the fence. A 1970 treaty requires that the floodplain of the Rio Grande remain open to both sides of the border. The Obama administration attempted to build fences along the river anyway, but the treaty and the river's floods forced the barrier to be placed so far into the interior of the United States that it has many holes to allow U.S. residents access to their property. These also provide an opportunity for border crossers.

At the same time, the fence can cause Mexico to receive too much water. Even when a fence has holes, which a wall would not, debris can turn the fence into a dam. Thanks to the barrier, some floods have fully covered the doors of Mexican buildings in Los Ebanos, across the Rio Grande, while producing little more than deep puddling on the U.S. side. The International Boundary and Water Commission that administers the treaty has rebuffed the Border Patrol's attempts to replicate this disaster in other areas of the Rio Grande Valley.

The Practical Considerations

Fences or walls obstruct crossers' paths, cutting off a straight shot into the interior of the country. But a barrier is not the permanent object that some people imagine. Natural events can knock down parts of a border fence. One storm in Texas left a hole for months. Fences and walls can also erode near rivers or beaches, as the one in San Diego did. And they can be penetrated: Some fencing can be cut in minutes, and the Border Patrol reported repairing more than 4,000 holes in one year alone. They neglected to mention whether that number equaled that year's number of breaches.

Much of the current fencing can be easily mounted with a ladder or from the roof of a truck. In some cases, border crossers can scale the fence without any additional equipment. One viral video from 2010 shows two women easily climbing an 18-foot steel bollard-style pedestrian fence in less than 20 seconds. Smugglers can even drive over the fence using ramps, a fact that was discovered only when a couple of foolish drug entrepreneurs managed to get their SUV stuck on top. (They took the dope and split.)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (data); GAO-15-399 (map)U.S. Customs and Border Protection (data); GAO-15-399 (map)
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, June 2011U.S. Customs and Border Protection, June 2011A wall would probably be less easily damaged by man or nature. But in at least some areas, its impassibility could also become a maintenance liability. Border Patrol agents have told Fox News that a border wall would still "have to allow water to pass through, or the sheer force of raging water could damage its integrity, not to mention the legal rights of both the U.S. and Mexico to seasonal rains." In 2011, for example, a flood in Arizona washed away 40 feet of steel fence.

While not "impenetrable," a concrete wall would impede efforts to cut through it. Trump has also claimed that no one would ever use a ladder to go over his wall because "there's no way to get down." After pondering the question for a second, he then conceded, "maybe a rope." Nonetheless, the height might discourage some people from attempting to climb it, and it would certainly take them longer to do so, giving Border Patrol agents additional time to reach them.

If not over or through, some crossers may opt to go under. Tunnels are typically used more for drug smuggling, but they still create a significant vulnerability in any kind of physical barrier. From 2007 to 2010, the Border Patrol found more than one tunnel per month, on average. "For every tunnel we find, we feel they're building another one somewhere," Kevin Hecht, a Border Patrol tunnel expert, told The New York Times last year. A wall would likely increase the rewards for successful tunneling as other modes of transit grow more expensive.

Trump is unconcerned, asserting that "tunnel technology" will rule out any such subterfuge. Effective tunnel detection equipment is seen as the Holy Grail of Border Patrol enforcement, but the Homeland Security Department's Science and Technology Directorate has so far concluded that no current technology for detecting tunnels beneath the border is "suited to Border Patrol agents' operational needs."

But the biggest practical problem with a wall is its opacity. In fact, many Border Patrol agents oppose a concrete wall for precisely this reason (albeit quietly, given that they were also some of Trump's biggest supporters during the election). "A cinder block or rock wall, in the traditional sense, isn't necessarily the most effective or desirable choice," Border Patrol agents told Fox News. "Seeing through a fence allows agents to anticipate and mobilize, prior to illegal immigrants actually climbing or cutting through the fence."

The agency is already desperate to switch out the nontransparent landing-mat fences in use in some places. These metal sheets were adapted from helicopter landing pads left over from Vietnam, and while inexpensive, they are ill-suited to their purpose. Popular Mechanics described these parts of the fence as "obsolete, in need of replacement," noting that they "can be easy to foil since Border Patrol agents can't see what's going on on the other side." If a wall slows down agents as much as it does smugglers and migrants, it provides no advantage on balance.

To put it most simply, border barriers will never stop illegal immigration, because a wall or fence cannot apprehend crossers. The agents that Fox News spoke to called a wall "meaningless" without agents and technology to back it up. Mayor Michael Gomez of Douglas, Arizona, labeled the fence a failure in 2010, saying "they jump right over it." Former Border Patrol spokesperson Mike Scioli has called the fence little more than "a speed bump in the desert."

The Efficacy of a Wall

Trump speaks with absolute certainty of a wall's ability to repel entries, yet the efficacy of the existing barriers has gone largely unstudied. The president is proposing a project likely to cost tens of billions of dollars and to suck up many other resources, and he is doing so without a single evaluation of the barrier. Obviously, any obstacle to passage will reduce entries at the margin. But would other options work better?

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D–Texas) of the House Homeland Security Committee failed to obtain an answer to this exact question from the Obama administration. Chairman Michael McCaul (R–Texas) concluded in 2013 that "it would be an inefficient use of taxpayer money to complete the fence," but he gave no indication of how he evaluated the costs and benefits. A 2016 Migration Policy Institute review of the impact of walls and fences around the world turned up no academic literature specifically on the deterrent effect of physical barriers relative to other technologies or strategies, and concluded somewhat vaguely that walls appear to be "relatively ineffective."

Trump claimed no one would ever use a ladder to go over his wall because "there's no way to get down." He pondered, then conceded, "maybe a rope."

Fences can have strong local effects, and the case for more fencing often relies completely on these regional outcomes. Take the San Diego border sector, probably the most commonly cited success story in this debate.

From 1990 to 1993, it replaced a "totally ineffective" fence with a taller, opaque landing mat fence along 14 miles of the border. This had little impact on the number of border crossers. "The primary fence, by itself, did not have a discernible impact on the influx of unauthorized aliens coming across the border in San Diego," the Congressional Research Service concluded.

From 1994 to 1996, Operation Gatekeeper doubled the number of agents in the sector to reinforce the fence, but this too had little effect on the number of apprehended migrants. (Researchers use apprehensions as a proxy for illegal immigration because they usually track closely to the number of total entries.) Instead, the apprehensions shifted dramatically away from the areas guarded by western stations at Imperial Beach and Chula Vista, where fences were built, and toward eastern stations. The net flow remained the same.

From 1997 to 1999, when the San Diego sector was reinforced with nine miles of secondary fencing and even more agents were added, the numbers did finally slow. But looking at the apprehension figures, it appears that San Diego simply pushed its problem even further east, to the El Centro, Yuma, and Tucson sectors. Each agent in those places ended up apprehending more people after the fence was built than before.

Ideally, we would perform the same type of before-and-after analysis of the impact of the Secure Fence Act of 2006. The problem is that those barriers were rolled out at the same time that Congress almost doubled the size of the Border Patrol, increasing it from 12,000 to 21,000 agents. Moreover, fences went up in many different sectors, making it difficult to isolate the effects. To complicate matters further, this period saw the collapse of the housing bubble, which caused a huge exodus of unauthorized workers back to Mexico.

The Unintended Consequences

The numbers from this period also suggest that counting "reduced crossings" as a victory may be misleading. As the amount of fencing and the number of agents grew, the share of unauthorized immigrants entering illegally fell, but the number entering legally (and then staying illegally) rose.

In 2006, the Pew Research Center calculated that more than a third of all unauthorized immigrants entered lawfully and then simply overstayed their visas. People who come to the U.S. as tourists or temporary business travelers are forbidden from working, so a small number remain after their visa expires to work under the table. For every three border crossers in 1992, there was one overstay. But by 2012, visa overstays accounted for 58 percent of all new unauthorized immigrants. A wall not only will do nothing to stop these people from entering, but it may actually incentivize more people to stick around without authorization.

Border fencing, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, June 2011Border fencing, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, June 2011Using reduced border crossings as the standard of success also obscures the wall's effect on the total population of undocumented residents in the country.

Until the first fence was built in 1990, workers could circulate freely across the border, coming to harvest crops during the summer and then returning home in the winter. They crossed with a goal of bettering their lives south of the border. The 1980s had more total crossings than the 1990s, but because as many people left each year as arrived, the total number of unauthorized immigrants remained roughly constant at about 3 million. The true measure of of a barrier's efficacy should be not the gross flow but the net flow, taking into account both entries and exits.

Increased enforcement in the 1990s raised the cost to cross the border, which obviously prevented some migrants from crossing at the margin. In fact, the cost of a single border crossing exploded from $500 in 1995 to $3,000 in 2009. Increasing the price of illegal activity is law enforcement's main measurement of success. The Drug Enforcement Administration would be thrilled to claim it had driven up illicit drug prices 600 percent in a decade and a half.

But this strategy backfired. The increased costs and risks disincentivized people from returning home. In 1996, just as the secondary fencing was going up in San Diego, a majority of new unauthorized entrants left within one year, according to a study by the University of Pennsylvania sociologist Douglas Massey. By 2009—with three times as many agents, 650 miles of barriers, and constant surveillance along the border—an illegal immigrant's likelihood of leaving within one year had dropped to a statistically insignificant level. Border security had essentially trapped them in.

The illegal population grew in tandem with the increases in smuggling prices, which in turn paralleled the growth in the number of border officers. This process continued from 1990 to 2007, when the housing collapse finally set Mexican migration into reverse.

Massey calculates that as of 2009, 5.3 million fewer immigrants would have been residing in the United States illegally had enforcement remained at the same levels as in the 1980s. He argues that a large guest worker program, similar to the one that the United States last had in the early 1960s, would reduce not just border crossings but the population of immigrants living in this country—seemingly a nationalist two-for-one.

The Price Tag

Congress set aside $1.2 billion for the 700-mile border fence in 2006. It ended up spending $3.5 billion for construction of the current combination of pedestrian fences and vehicle impediments. In 2009, the Border Patrol estimated it would need to spend an average of $325 million per year for 20 years to maintain these barriers. The Congressional Research Service found that by 2015, Congress had already spent $7 billion on the project, more than $11.3 million per mile per decade.

Of course, it hardly makes sense to look at averages, given that half the fence is inexpensive vehicle-only barriers. Of the 317 miles of true pedestrian fencing, the GAO found that construction alone for the first 70 miles cost $2.8 million per mile on average. In the more difficult, non-urban areas, costs grew dramatically: For the next 225 miles, they rose to $5 million per mile on average. In a mountainous region east of San Diego, they hit $16 million per mile. After about 290 miles, the GAO assumed the average cost for the final 26 miles would be $6.5 million.

If Trump backs away from his promise or if Congress ignores his requests for new funding, he may choose to simply build out the existing pedestrian fence for the remaining 683 miles to reach his 1,000-mile goal. Using the $6.5-million-per-mile figure, Congress will still need to front at least $10 billion over 10 years. The entire fence would price out at $18 billion, accounting for inflation. Add in the costs associated with acquiring private land and building in less accessible areas and the price tag goes even higher.

Trump, who still insists that his wall will be not a fence but an "impenetrable physical wall" of concrete, claims that it will cost between $10 billion and $12 billion. In early 2017, House Speaker Paul Ryan suggested that a similar amount of appropriations would be needed for the wall. Neither the president nor the speaker has revealed his methodology. But since we know that just building out the existing fence would cost at least that much, the wall will undoubtedly cost far more.

Not only that, but the existing fences were relatively inexpensive to build because they were constructed from materials such as old metal from helicopter landing pads and built low to the ground in some places. Trump has criticized them for, among other things, their inability to prevent tunneling, their materials, their height, and their aesthetics. Trump's wall would use, according to one engineer's estimate, more than 1.5 times as much concrete as the Hoover Dam.

For the full 1,000 miles, Trump's 30-foot wall (with a 10-foot tunnel barrier) would cost $31.2 billion, or $31.2 million per mile, according to the best estimate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers. Two other estimates placed the construction cost of the wall in the $25 billion range. An internal Department of Homeland Security report from February 2017 concluded the project would cost $21.6 billion for "a series of fences and walls" along 1,250 miles of the border. And these are solely upfront construction costs. They don't include ongoing maintenance, which has accounted for roughly half of the price of the existing barriers over a decade.

The Economic Downside

Donald Trump has insisted from the start of his campaign that Mexico will pay for the wall. When he presented a proposal to Congress to fund the wall's construction in January, he continued to insist that Mexico would repay the United States. For his part, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has said that he would refuse to pay for any portion of the wall, and the back-and-forth became so heated in January that he canceled a meeting with Trump.

The U.S. president has remained vague about how this reimbursement will happen without Mexico's cooperation, and his total lack of understanding of basic economic concepts may be contributing to his erroneous belief. "The wall is a fraction of the kind of money…that Mexico takes in from the United States," he told CNN in April 2016. "You're talking about a trade deficit with Mexico of $58 billion." In other words, he seems to be saying that if the Mexican government does not give him the $31 billion or more that it will take to build the wall, Trump will tax America's business with Mexico. White House Spokesman Sean Spicer intimated something similar in January 2017.

U.S. Customs and Border ProtectionU.S. Customs and Border ProtectionEven if that were to happen, it is simply inaccurate to claim that America's southern neighbor would be paying for the wall, since the revenue would be coming from U.S. consumers. If the United States imposes a tax on Mexican imports, then people in America buying Mexican goods, from beer to cars, will cover it. Sen. Marco Rubio (R–Fla.) said as much to Trump during a presidential primary debate in January 2016, explaining that the Mexican government "doesn't pay the tariff—the buyer pays the tariff." Evidently, the lesson failed to stick.

Trump has also floated the idea of cutting off remittances to Mexico of unauthorized immigrants if the Mexican government refuses to pay up. His proposed regulatory method of doing this (claiming that cash wire transfers are actually bank accounts) is legally suspect, but even if it were licit, it would not cover the cost of the wall. Although Mexican immigrants annually send $26 billion to their families in Mexico, only half of the Mexican immigrants in the United States are here illegally, and the majority of the remittances from unauthorized immigrants would likely find a way home through means other than wire transfers.

The Reason

President Trump's wall would be a mammoth expenditure that would have little impact on illegal immigration. But perhaps that's not the point. The campaign's goal was to plant an image in voters' minds of what making America great again would look like. The president's goal may now be to create a symbol, an illustration of a nationalism that says to the world that although people of all kinds may want to come here, America was created by and for Americans.

For those who are not nationalists, the wall is a problem. The direct harms are easy to document: the spending, the taxes, the eminent domain abuse, and the decrease in immigrants' freedom of movement.

Right: Tijuana, Mexico; left: San Diego, California. Public DomainRight: Tijuana, Mexico; left: San Diego, California. Public DomainEven if the wall fails to reduce illegal entries significantly overall, one byproduct of making it harder to enter is that people will choose to cross in increasingly dangerous points along the border (the president's "natural barriers"). This objective was a purposeful Border Patrol strategy in the 1990s, and it caused the number of deaths to skyrocket as people perished in mountains or deserts. From 1993 to 2005, the number of lives lost in crossing rose from 23 to 500 per year. Since the border fence was built, the number has declined, but the death rate per crossing had more than tripled by 2012.

Wasteful security has always been the compromise that non-nationalists give to nationalists to obtain a better immigration system, one that treats people humanely and allows more of them to enter and live here legally. The most optimistic case is that the president builds some kind of barrier and takes credit for the drop in illegal immigration that began a decade ago. Seizing victory, he allows some form of immigration reform palatable to moderate Republicans to pass.

But agreeing to the symbol could be seen as conceding the principle behind it. If Trump understands the costs and the limited benefits of the wall, his true purpose may be to force his opponents to give in to the nationalist viewpoint and spend the ensuing decades building and maintaining its outward sign. Many Republicans, including the president, have adopted a "border security first" philosophy that requires certain metrics to be met before other humane reforms take effect, so the wall could simply be an attempt to move the goalposts for security so far that they can never be reached (especially if Mexico's reimbursement is a criterion).

Another possibility is that the wall serves as a grand red herring, forcing Trump's opponents to focus on the symbol while he enforces his true vision in other areas. The president's executive order mandating the construction of a wall also requires a crackdown on asylum seekers coming to the border from Central America. His order on interior enforcement renders nearly all unauthorized immigrants priorities for removal. He has still further orders planned to undermine the legal immigration system for foreign workers. And of course, he has tried to ban all people from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering at all. As his opponents focus on the wall, the Trump administration targets immigrants from every direction.

Congressional Research ServiceCongressional Research ServiceIn a sense, the wall merely represents the Trump administration's worst instincts and desires. It is harmful, wasteful, and offensive, but an ineffective wall is nonetheless better than the surge of 5,000 new Border Patrol agents and 10,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to round up and deport people that the president also wants. No wall has ever arrested, robbed, battered, or murdered nonviolent people, as immigration enforcement has. A wall will not create an interest group to lobby for itself, endorse nationalist presidential candidates, and demand more power and funding, as the Border Patrol union does.

The wall is more than a symbol. It will harm the lives of thousands of border residents and immigrants while wasting billions of tax dollars. But in a world run by nationalists, the one small source of comfort for non-nationalists over the next four years may be the knowledge that it could be worse.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons/Tony Webster

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  • ||

    The wall construction has not started, but it is working already. It has caused reverse immigration north and south of the country. David Bier your facts are screwed.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    I... what?

  • Quixote||

    For some time now, I have been proposing the construction of a Great Digital Wall, which we can use to block any screwed facts from penetrating into the inner sanctum of our nation's academies of higher learning. Clearly, for example, there should be no tolerance whatsoever for the "First Amendment dissent" of a single, isolated judge in America's leading criminal "satire" case, or for the unseemly, and indiscreet, writings that it continues to spawn, some of which, in obvious defiance of academic sovereignty and control over our educational borders, have been insidiously collected and offered for public consumption at:

    http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

  • Agammamon||

    Uhm, or it could be that the US economy crashed in 2008 and is just barely recovering, along with improvements in Mexico that have reduced the incentives to come here to find economic success?

    Because if there's one thing a draconian immigration policy has shown us it achieves, its that people who have to spend a lot of effort to sneak in will sneak in *to stay*, not stay away.

  • SomeGuy||

    or the fact the same thing is happening today as it did in operation wetback?

  • BambiB||

    The simplest wall would be a single strand of wire with signs in English and Spanish saying, "Invaders who cross this line will be killed." Plant anti-personnel mines throughout the area and station predatory drones and military sniper teams on the border to eliminate any who don't get the message. Video record the first dozen kills and transmit the video to Mekkiko with the message, "This is what invaders get when they don't pay attention to our wall."

    The flood of criminal aliens will STOP.

    Next, pass a law making it a crime punishable by $1000 per day to negligently employ or rent property to a criminal alien. "Negligence" would be defined by whether the employer/landlord used E-Verify to vet their employee/renter. A second offense after conviction would results in a $10,000/day fine and 10 years in prison.

    The last piece of the puzzle is a mandatory 2-year sentence in an Arizona tent prison (run by Sheriff Arpaio) and forfeiture of ALL property upon capture. A second offense would result in a MANDATORY DEATH PENALTY to be carried out within 1 week of capture. Offer a $1000 bounty for information leading to the capture or death of any invaders.

    Blown up or shot while crossing. Loss of all property and two years in a freezing/sweltering tent prison in Arizona if they're caught. Death penalty for second offense. No jobs. No place to live. Give them six months to get out and begin to enforce the law VIGOROUSLY.

    Problem solved.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Never happen. There would be far too many very real heartbreaking stories, and the media would play them up big (no bias necessary; it would sell. Not that there wouldn't be bias, mind).

    Also, the evidence seems to suggest that the right thing to do with Sherriff Arpaio is put him in prison, not let him run one. His PR campaign was top notch, but he seems to have begun believing his own press, and the results weren't pretty.

  • BambiB||

    The simplest wall would be a single strand of wire with signs in English and Spanish saying, "Invaders who cross this line will be killed." Plant anti-personnel mines throughout the area and station predatory drones and military sniper teams on the border to eliminate any who don't get the message. Video record the first dozen kills and transmit the video to Mekkiko with the message, "This is what invaders get when they don't pay attention to our wall."

    The flood of criminal aliens will STOP.

    Next, pass a law making it a crime punishable by $1000 per day to negligently employ or rent property to a criminal alien. "Negligence" would be defined by whether the employer/landlord used E-Verify to vet their employee/renter. A second offense after conviction would results in a $10,000/day fine and 10 years in prison.

    The last piece of the puzzle is a mandatory 2-year sentence in an Arizona tent prison (run by Sheriff Arpaio) and forfeiture of ALL property upon capture. A second offense would result in a MANDATORY DEATH PENALTY to be carried out within 1 week of capture. Offer a $1000 bounty for information leading to the capture or death of any invaders.

    Blown up or shot while crossing. Loss of all property and two years in a freezing/sweltering tent prison in Arizona if they're caught. Death penalty for second offense. No jobs. No place to live. Give them six months to get out and begin to enforce the law VIGOROUSLY.

    Problem solved.

  • No Yards Penalty||

    Satire or retarded?
    I've been reading the Federalist so I can't tell anymore.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Nuke the whole planet, then spread finely ground plutonium dust all over all the land (including the seas might be too expensive).

    THAT will put a permanent end to all human suffering (after a short spike)!

    And yes, I do cut my butter with a nuclear-powered chain saw...

  • CooterBrown||

    I'm guessing satire. Maybe hoping more than guessing though.

  • Redcard||

    What about moats? And alligators?

    And how about illegal employers being thrown in the moat?

  • ImanAzol||

    Pity about that Constitution and due process. But we can't let them stand in the way of freedom.

  • yhrobinson||

    "a mandatory 2-year sentence in an Arizona tent prison (run by Sheriff Arpaio)"

    I'm sorry to break the news to you but Joe, Joe Arpaio got kicked out of office last November 8th.

    Even the re-necks in Maricopa County got tired of his baloney. Whipped nicely by a democrat in a very, very red county.

    Good-by to the Abuse of Power charges (too numerous to list here), election law violations, unconstitutional jail conditions, failures to investigate sex crimes, 11 lawsuits settled by the county at a cost of more than $45 million, misuse of funds (around $100 million, according to Maricopa County Office of Management and Budget), racial profiling, contempt of court, etc, etc., etc.

    He's still busy, however. He's now hot on the trail of the proof that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. According to Joe there are "9 points of forgery" in Obama's birth certificate. He will have definitive proof any day now and we can see that black man whose crime was that he lived in the White House for 8 years, securely behind bars where he can't do any more harm to the decent folks in this country.

  • Leo Kovalensky||

    I believe this is the Kim Jong-Il (or Un) plan. The only difference is you turned the signs around.

  • Agammamon||

    Uhm, or it could be that the US economy crashed in 2008 and is just barely recovering, along with improvements in Mexico that have reduced the incentives to come here to find economic success?

    Because if there's one thing a draconian immigration policy has shown us it achieves, its that people who have to spend a lot of effort to sneak in will sneak in *to stay*, not stay away.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    I've heard that good walls make good neighbors.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    Here's another thing, China has a wall. They have a huge wall that's visible from SPACE! Can we really afford to let the Chinese have the lead in border security too?

  • Brandybuck||

    Didn't work too well keeping the Mongols out, did it?

  • Diane Merriam||

    And no, it's not visible from space. That's an urban legend.

  • Radioactive||

    yo mama is visible from space...well that's what I heard anyway...

  • Diane Merriam||

    And no, It's not visible from space either. That's an urban legend.

  • Diane Merriam||

    The rustling of squirrels in the attic - oh well, better them than rats.

  • Radioactive||

    kept yo mama out...

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    1) the Great Wall is not visible from space.

    2) Historically speaking it didn't prevent barbarian invasions, and probably didn't significantly slow them down.

  • Cloudbuster||

    From my reading of history, it did, in fact, hold off a number of barbarian invasions over a span of several hundred years. No, it didn't work forever, but it worked for a good long time.

  • ||

    1) the Great Wall is not visible from space.

    This lacks context. At one point, the myth was that it was the only man-made object you could see from space with the naked eye. Most people haven't been to space and/or studied optics and don't understand what it means for something to be 'visible from space' in that context. You can see features on the moon with the naked eye that are hundredths the size of the length of the wall. It's certainly not the only man-made object you can see unaided from space as, especially once night falls and/or the Earth rotates, all sorts of man-made objects much, much smaller than the wall make themselves much more visible either through 'conventional' contrast or because they light up on their own (aided?). Moreover, considering the vertical distance 'from space to Earth' is only like 60-70 mi., fuck yeah you can see the wall from space.

  • Radioactive||

    as it turns out China is lousy with walls, not just the one "Great" one every uses for a selfie. the Chinese just like to build walls, some of very limited size & scope others more grandiose.

  • timbo||

    Here's why:

    Because it is expensive and won't work. Will be excellent at creating ever more violent black markets.
    And we need Mexicans because most americans are shitty workers in the grunt labor sector. Mexicans work harder at construction, yard work, farming, painting, dish washing, everything, etc... than most welfare receiving or otherwise complaining POS americans.

  • MiloMinderbinder||

    Didn't Hungary's border barrier succeed at keeping out the Middle Eastern refugees?

  • timbo||

    From the video I saw, guys with guns kept them back. I guess if we had a shorter border and more cops, we could get it done. Perhaps we could stop fighting wars in 7 countries and use those troops to stop perfectly good, hard working cherry pickers from wanting to work.

  • Ron||

    cherry pickers used to be allowed work visa no reason that can't happen with a wall

  • timbo||

    Understood. That was more sarcasm about the whole taking our jobs farce that is bandied about every time an election comes around.

    What jobs are immigrants steeling from otherwise highly qualified americans?

  • yet another dave||

    Good hard working cherry picker was my nickname in college

  • Agammamon||

    No reason for the wall if people could get Visas.

  • yet another dave||

    Good jard working cherry picker was my nickname in college

  • yet another dave||

    Sjuirrels...

  • yet another dave||

    Sjuirrels...

  • yet another dave||

    Sjuirrels...

  • ColoradoKook||

    Great, now we have Scandinavian rodents taking the jobs of American squirrels.

  • GILMORE™||

    Because it is expensive and won't work.

    I think the author should probably have saved himself time& effort and just said this.

    here's a question tho =

    what if it did work*? would you say, 'well its just expensive then' but otherwise unobjectionable?

    (*"work" in the sense of "sharply reducing illegal border-crossers from the south")

    because i think the reason that people like the author throw so many different arguments out there simultaneously
    (e.g. "legal, practical, economic, and moral") is because they are worried at least one of them is actually wrong, but they don't know which.

    hence the "spaghetti-against-the-wall"-type article here.

  • Chipper Morning Wood||

    That's some strange logic, Gilmore. That's like if I told someone all the myriad reasons they are being a dumbass, and they reaponded with "Yeah, you are just giving me all these reasons because you are scared at least one of them is wrong."

  • Zeb||

    Or they do really think that it's both immoral and bad for the economy to keep people who want to come peacefully to the country out and that a wall is also unlikely to achieve the stated goal.

    Libertarians do this a lot. Just look at economics. Most think that an unencumbered free market is both the morally correct thing, and the best thing for humanity's development and enrichment.

    Libertarians seem to like to keep the moral argument as a fallback, just in case the practical arguments don't work out.

  • Agammamon||

    Work is still only half the question.

    Even if it worked, *is it worth the cost*? That's the first question that should have been asked. unfortunately, the people who are pushing this are not the ones going to have to pay for it so their answer will automatically be 'yes'.

  • CooterBrown||

    Exactly. I'm one of the few individuals from my graduating class that ended up in construction and didn't go to a 4 year university. Honkies all want cushy desk jobs.

  • BambiB||

    The simplest wall would be a single strand of wire with signs in English and Spanish saying, "Invaders who cross this line will be killed." Plant anti-personnel mines throughout the area and station predatory drones and military sniper teams on the border to eliminate any who don't get the message. Video record the first dozen kills and transmit the video to Mekkiko with the message, "This is what invaders get when they don't pay attention to our wall."

    The flood of criminal aliens will STOP.

    Next, pass a law making it a crime punishable by $1000 per day to negligently employ or rent property to a criminal alien. "Negligence" would be defined by whether the employer/landlord used E-Verify to vet their employee/renter. A second offense after conviction would results in a $10,000/day fine and 10 years in prison.

    The last piece of the puzzle is a mandatory 2-year sentence in an Arizona tent prison (run by Sheriff Arpaio) and forfeiture of ALL property upon capture. A second offense would result in a MANDATORY DEATH PENALTY to be carried out within 1 week of capture. Offer a $1000 bounty for information leading to the capture or death of any invaders.

    Blown up or shot while crossing. Loss of all property and two years in a freezing/sweltering tent prison in Arizona if they're caught. Death penalty for second offense. No jobs. No place to live. Give them six months to get out and begin to enforce the law VIGOROUSLY.

    Problem solved.

  • BambiB||

    The simplest wall would be a single strand of wire with signs in English and Spanish saying, "Invaders who cross this line will be killed." Plant anti-personnel mines throughout the area and station predatory drones and military sniper teams on the border to eliminate any who don't get the message. Video record the first dozen kills and transmit the video to Mekkiko with the message, "This is what invaders get when they don't pay attention to our wall."

    The flood of criminal aliens will STOP.

    Next, pass a law making it a crime punishable by $1000 per day to negligently employ or rent property to a criminal alien. "Negligence" would be defined by whether the employer/landlord used E-Verify to vet their employee/renter. A second offense after conviction would results in a $10,000/day fine and 10 years in prison.

    The last piece of the puzzle is a mandatory 2-year sentence in an Arizona tent prison (run by Sheriff Arpaio) and forfeiture of ALL property upon capture. A second offense would result in a MANDATORY DEATH PENALTY to be carried out within 1 week of capture. Offer a $1000 bounty for information leading to the capture or death of any invaders.

    Blown up or shot while crossing. Loss of all property and two years in a freezing/sweltering tent prison in Arizona if they're caught. Death penalty for second offense. No jobs. No place to live. Give them six months to get out and begin to enforce the law VIGOROUSLY.

    Problem solved.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    How is Chuck Schumer going to keep Americans in then?

  • timbo||

    He could stand on the border with that ugly mug and obnoxious yankee voice. Someone could take the chips to him and the world would be a better place.

  • Redcard||

    If Drumpf can, why can't Schumer?

  • Loss of Reason||

    Wow Timbo, tell us how you really feel.

    Look the problem us common folk have is that why do people of the south get special treatment? Lots of people want to move here. Why do they get preference? How come I don't push 3 for Korean, 4 for Klingon, 5 for gender non specific? That's what pisses everyone off. The catering to them. Instead of having them learn English (Sorry, it's the language used for business and safety). Why aren't they assimilating to our culture? While some do love this country, you see the ones wave other country flags and demanding things. ( I have a Russian girlfriend, yes a spy with a direct line to Putin and she had to learn English)

    I understand the democrats want another slave group that will be kept poor and always vote for them because they will be told they are victims everyday, but what is the libertarian reason? You can make the argument that they screwed up their country not they want to screw up ours. We can do that screwing up on our own - example CA

    Finally, it comes down to laws. We have laws on immigration...which suck but are the laws. So we get to pick and chose what to enforce? I don't want to pay taxes or pay for things at all.

    Wait, so Reason would agree that we should just invade Mexico and make it part of the US? Than we wouldn't have border! (Note Mexico takes their border protection deadly serious, so do a lot of countries, just no the West)

  • Chipper Morning Wood||

    You do not get to dictate what language other people want to speak, hombre.

  • Zeb||

    They are special because the share a land border with us. It's not special treatment, it's special facts about geography.

    And I think that most pro-immigration libertarians that people from whatever part of the world should also be able to enter the country if they can manage to get themselves here. And lots do. Not all illegal immigrants are from the Americas.

  • Agammamon||

    People cater to them because there's enough of them to make it profitable.

    This *is* America, after all, a free country - you can chooses to speak any language you want, even to the point of never learning English. And you can choose to associate with other people who have done the same and with those who chose to do business with those people.

    And, frankly, its a problem of first generation immigrants only - and not even all of them.

  • Agammamon||

    Also, take their border protection seriously? Have you *been* to Mexico? You're more likely to be stopped by the USBP on your way out than stopped by the Mexican BP on your way in.

    They barely even bother to patrol the border - and they sure as fuck have never shot Americans on the American side of the border, unlike our own border police.

  • Headache||

    That's because they know you are not going to stay very long in the shit hole known as Mexico!

  • ||

    Note Mexico takes their border protection deadly serious, so do a lot of countries, just no the West)

    Oddly, I've never had any problem entering Mexico. Their border guards have typically waved me in with a friendly smile, not even wanting me to slow my car down.

    The mood is really, really different when I try to come back into the US, though.

  • Headache||

    That's because they know you will not be staying very long in the shit hole known as Mexico!

  • Headache||

    And rightly so.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    This article is longer than the wall.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I approve

  • Ron||

    and filled with as many assumptive wholes as well. that said
    Walls do work just look at Israel.
    The article does not say its illegal it just has legal hoops to go through
    The article claims its immoral but that is their moral preference not everyones, morals are all subjective.
    The article claims it will be expensive butt it is still less than 1/2 of what California alone spends on illegal immigrants every year, so its actually cheap. Note some reports claim that more illigals are now from Asia and they are arriving by boats. separate issue and solvable

    build the wall and control the border but allow easier legal access but you can only do that when you can control.
    Reason is just open borders and that never worked well for any established country., just ask the first arrivers how well it worked for them.

  • ||

    I'm sure there a few more slogans you could throw. Don't be lazy, man.

  • Ron||

    slogans are as good as pages of meaningless dribble, besides I'm not paid to sit around for days coming up with stuff. I'm paid to draw houses not comment on websites so I better get back to work.

  • ||

    I'm paid to draw houses

    Then you should have some understanding of the issues that would make such a wall unbuildable.

  • Agammamon||

    Walls haven't worked in Israel either man.

    They didn't work for the Soviet Union either until they lined them with barbed wire and machine guns.

    Is that what you want here?

    Because you're really not serious about border protection unless you want the above, along with internal checkpoints, mandatory ID, facial recognition, license plate scanners, no-warrant sweeps of every neighborhood, along with internal passports.

    Even then you won't eliminate illegal immigration - though you might finally 'get a handle on it'.

  • Diane Merriam||

    The walls of Israel work (a lot better than most) because they are secondarily lined with lot of people with lots of big guns. You see it's not people wanting to simply work that try to get in, but people who want to kill Israelis. So they spend a *lot* more guarding them.

    Morals are all subjective? So not killing or robbing people is just a preference? Or is it that there are some morals you don't want to accept because then you would have to be more responsible for your own life?

    If California spends twice as much on immigrants as the wall there would cost, then let California build their own wall ... and pay for it themselves.

    And for all that, it doesn't do a single thing for the 40% of the people that are here without government approval who arrived perfectly legally and just didn't leave. They aren't even criminals. It's just a civil offense to not leave on time.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Israel put up walls between Israel and the West Bank.

    The Soviets put up a wall between east and west Berlin.

    It's been done, and it's been effective.

    I'm an open borders guy in that I believe Mexican citizens should be free to come back and forth across the border so long as they can show an ID (that doesn't exist yet) confirming who they are, that they aren't convicted felons, have been immunized against x, y, and z, etc.

    Such a system, however, would still require us to have a means to keep people out who were rejected for being cartel members convicted of violent crimes, etc. Yes, public support for open borders is almost certainly predicated on the general public becoming convinced that the government is capable of securing our borders against those we don't let in because they present a violent threat.

    Persuading average people that it's impossible for the government to secure our borders is, thus, counterproductive. It doesn't convince them to support open borders. It convinces them to ignore libertarians.

  • chemjeff||

    The Soviets put up a wall between east and west Berlin.

    It's been done, and it's been effective.

    Is this *really* a model that we want to emulate?

  • Ken Shultz||

    Tools aren't good or evil. It's how they're used.

    Don't tell me that walls are ineffective at keeping people out (or in) when it can be easily demonstrated that isn't the case.

  • chemjeff||

    The Berlin Wall wouldn't have worked if it hadn't been backed up by the use of lethal force to stop and deter border-crossers.

  • Ken Shultz||

    That may be. It wouldn't have been necessary if East Germany hadn't been such a crapfest compared to the capitalism west, as well. But what does any of that have to do with whether walls can be effective?

    Did someone suggest getting rid of the Border Patrol? The wall is going to be manned, right? Presumably, they will use drones to monitor it, also.

    If you want to talk about the costs of doing these things, or the morality of doing these things, let's do that.

    Let's leave the part about how walls are ineffective back in antiquity, when people first started building such things. Not all walls are cost effective or equally imposing. We know that. Next!

    P.S. Walls in Israel are meant to keep people in the West Bank and Gaza out (not that it matters) The walls are not 100% effective and yet, it is effective to some extent, right?

  • chemjeff||

    Your example, the Berlin Wall, was only effective because the East German border guards would shoot and kill people trying to cross the wall.

    As far as I understand things, it's not the policy of the US Border Patrol to shoot Mexicans trying to cross the border.

  • WesSeid||

    People invading countries used to get shot, because they were invaders. Now people illegally invading countries get welfare for themselves and their 10 kids as they replace the host population and change the culture of the country forever.

  • ||

    Now people illegally invading countries get welfare for themselves

    Only if you equivocate between the terms "immigrant" and "invader."

  • WesSeid||

    Illegal alien "immigrants" are indeed invaders.

  • EscherEnigma||

    "Now people illegally invading countries get welfare for themselves and their 10 kids as they replace the host population and change the culture of the country forever."
    To be fair, the Europeans took a few centuries to set up welfare after they invaded the Americas.

  • Chipper Morning Wood||

    The Berlin Wall was only effective because it was manned with armed guards that shot anyone that tried to climb it. Do you think Americans would be up for that? Also, even with the armed guards, people still got across.

  • yet another dave||

    And it was a wall around half a city.... not bisecting Germany, the border between West and East Germany was barbed wire, ditches and about a 1/2 a million troops of either side... not a 2000 mile fixed wall... huuge difference

  • Redcard||

    How should the wall between East and West Berlin should have been used, if we wanted, say, to use it for good?

  • GILMORE™||

    the Iron Curtain was to ""keep people who wanted to leave inside""

    subtle difference, i know

  • Chipper Morning Wood||

    The Iron Curtain had armed guards, razor wire, electrified wires, and mine fields. And people still got across. I met some of them.

  • Chipper Morning Wood||

    Ken, that Israeli wall is an abomination. You should watch the episode of Idiot Abroad where he goes to Israel.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Whether it's an abomination doesn't speak to whether it's effective at keeping people out.

    Are you saying it's an abomination because it's ineffective?

    Are you saying it's an abomination because it's effective?

    Let's find better arguments for immigration that aren't so demonstrably false.

    If you're saying it costs more than it's worth, I'm right there with you. Tell other people that walls are ineffective (in the name of libertarianism) and I'll try to undo the damage with my friends and family, but you're gonna have to live with yours laughing at you behind your back.

    I want to get rid of the income tax.

    I oppose the income tax because some people will avoid paying, and, hence, it won't actually raise any revenue?

    No. The income tax brings in plenty of revenue.

    I don't make up silly reasons to get rid of the income tax. I use good ones.

  • Zeb||

    Israel put up walls between Israel and the West Bank.

    The Soviets put up a wall between east and west Berlin.

    I'm not sure you can compare those to the US-Mexico border. Or if you can, you'd need enormous manpower to guard the walls. The Berlin wall worked because it was also heavily guarded. How many guards would you need on the wall to make sure you caught every person who tried to cross? Every few hundred yards? Maybe you could have fewer and have cameras and other sensors. But you still need people close enough to every point on the wall to respond quickly before people crossing can escape or find a place to hide.

  • Diane Merriam||

    And don't forget the 24/7 manned, interlocking fire, machine gun emplacements who were authorized to shoot on sight, no questions asked.

  • ||

    In my experience, people who are in favor of the wall are like people who are in favor of minimum wage. You can reason all day, but you will never get anywhere.

    People who think you can construct an impenetrable wall through 1000 miles of desert are not starting from a strongly reasoned position. There's a fundamental disconnect from realizing what is possible in the world.

    And this observation has as little to do with your opinion of immigration as observations regarding minimum wage laws have to do with your opinion of poverty.

    To adapt and expand the old saw, "Show me a 35' wall and I'll show you a 36' ladder, 38' if we're following OSHA rules. Show me a concrete wall with barbed wire tops, and I'll show you a core drill, a portable jackhammer, and a spot 75 miles away from the nearest enforcement agent."

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    In my experience, people who are in favor of the wall are like people who are in favor of minimum wage
    [...]

    People who think you can construct an impenetrable wall through 1000 miles of desert are not starting from a strongly reasoned position. There's a fundamental disconnect from realizing what is possible in the world.

    I live in a place that has a $15 an hour minimum wage, and the people who succeeded in getting it passed don't think it's high enough.

    Be careful what you think is crazy talk and not possible in "the real world".

  • ||

    Oh I have no doubt that we'll build this wall, and be told that the country would be positively overrun without it. I'm just amused by this long and earnest argument that this is not really a very solid solution to the 'problem' as if there's some audience for a rational argument on this topic other than the people who already agree it's a stupid idea.

  • Ken Shultz||

    It is not physically impossible to secure our border. Cost effectiveness is an issue, but that's the issue in securing Afghanistan, too. And our border is a hell of a lot easier to secure than Afghanistan--if only because we're talking about holding one line instead of Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, other countries, and all the territory between those borders, too.

    I appreciate that the cost of absolutely securing our border can rise above the efficacy of doing so; reasonable people also appreciate that there is some cost below which securing our border less than absolutely is still of net benefit.

    Think of it this way: We're never going to prevent every street crime--because the cost of preventing that very last street crime would be astronomical. That doesn't mean paying some level of a police presence is financially irresponsible. There is some level at which the benefit of paying for police rises above their cost.

    Because a wall + drones + more border patrol won't solve all our problems absolutely doesn't mean there isn't some level of benefit from them that surpasses their cost.

  • ||

    "Building Wall" =/= "Securing Border"

    "Securing the border" takes armed people. The wall without the armed people is 100% pointless. The armed people without the wall would be just as effective.

    BUT - Berlin, Beijing, Israel - these are not good examples. These are short borders, with walls of comparatively trifling length. And they are not/were not themselves terribly effective, and both were combined with heavy presence of armed people.

    As this article points out, the logistics of a wall along the entire southern border are not surmountable. The civil engineering issues alone make the wall essentially unbuildable, and nature alone will create washed out sections that no one will notice for years at a time.

    Even if you do believe strongly in the importance of border security, the wall is still a dumb idea.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "Building Wall" =/= "Securing Border"

    I didn't say building a wall was securing the border. I said securing the border isn't impossible--but "cost effectiveness is the issue"--just like we don't have enough money to prevent every incidence of street crime.

    "BUT - Berlin, Beijing, Israel - these are not good examples. These are short borders, with walls of comparatively trifling length.

    I didn't say anything about Beijing.

    Israel's West Bank wall is 440 miles long.

    Regardless, talking about whether walls can be an imposing barrier is ridiculous. People have been building walls to keep people out for thousands of years. They're not 100% effective in every configuration, and you can spend more on them than they're worth. But if you're going around telling people that libertarians think walls are ineffective at keeping people out of things, then you're making libertarians look stupid.

  • ||

    But if you're going around telling people that libertarians think walls are ineffective at keeping people out of things, then you're making libertarians look stupid.

    Good thing I'm not saying that.

    What I'm actually saying is analogous to this:

    Just because you can make a flak jacket that you can wear, that doesn't mean you can make a flak jacket that you can wrap the whole country in.

    Scale creates problems that can't just be hand-waved away. We can't drain the ocean. Not because we don't know how to pump water, but because its logistically impossible to drain the ocean.

    A 2,000-mile wall is not a wall - it's public art.

  • Diane Merriam||

    No it's not. It's about 400 km which is about 250 miles. The whole country of Israel is smaller than New Hampshire. It's holding back people who's dream is to kill every Jew, and especially Israeli, they can get their hands (or rockets) on. It's a whole lot more important to Israel to keep people out who want to kill them, than it is for us to keep people out who are just looking for a job.

    And the biggest, bestest, beautifullest wall on the border with Mexico in the world doesn't even begin to touch the other 40% of the people that are here without government authorization that entered the country perfectly legally and just didn't leave ... which isn't even a criminal offense.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "At a total length of 708 kilometres (440 mi) upon completion, the border traced by the barrier is more than double the length of the Green Line"

    http://tinyurl.com/k6397hc

    Again, we're so much better off arguing about the merits of immigration rather than whether walls are effective at keeping people out.

    IF IF IF you're going to keep arguing that walls are ineffective at keeping people out, you might as well be a creationist.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "As this article points out, the logistics of a wall along the entire southern border are not surmountable. The civil engineering issues alone make the wall essentially unbuildable, and nature alone will create washed out sections that no one will notice for years at a time."

    You're way overselling that. I work with civil engineers all the time. If you think civil engineers can't account for water, etc. I don't know what to say. I know civil engineers who deal with nothing but storm water and flood control. That's what they do for a living. We figured out how to do that stuff long before we put a man on the moon.

    I've seen bridges with support structures in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, fer Pete's sake.

  • Ken Shultz||

  • ||

    If you think civil engineers can't account for water, etc.

    I manage civil engineers. They report to me, and I find myself having to explain their business to them not infrequently.

    It's not that they can't "account for water;" it's that they have to account for water.

    Did you read the article?

    I thought the explanations in the article were a bit superfluous, but I guess not.

    Water flows across the border. Lots and lots of water does. The wall is not going to stop that from happening. It has to be accounted for. The water has to have a way to cross the wall, because the water is going to cross and take the wall with it if it doesn't.

    If water can cross the wall, people can. If water can't cross the wall, water will knock the wall down. It really is that simple.

    Walls make people feel better. They can slow down intruders, but by themselves they stop nothing. People have known this for the entire history of building walls.

    But the point is that this wall can't be built. Debates over the effectiveness of walls really don't matter, because whatever gets built out there won't function as a wall.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "I manage civil engineers. They report to me"

    I hire civil engineers, and after reading that explanation, quite frankly, I don't believe you manage them.

    Unless you work for the government.

    Do you work for the government?

  • Headache||

    They can slow down intruders - that is the reason to build a wall.

    Walls can be built that require very little maintenance, relatively few workers, and expensive equipment. Just pile up a lot of jagged rock and add some rattlesnakes.

  • Diane Merriam||

    Perfect example ... New Orleans.

    Not to mention all the other "simpler" flood abatement systems that regularly fail.

  • Ken Shultz||

    You're saying that walls can't be designed properly because some of them are maintained improperly?

  • Fatty Bolger||

    People who think you can construct an impenetrable wall through 1000 miles of desert are not starting from a strongly reasoned position. There's a fundamental disconnect from realizing what is possible in the world.

    Frankly, their concept of what is possible is probably more realistic than yours. No, a wall would not stop every single crossing. But it can be done, and it would dramatically lower the number of illegal crossings. That does not mean that we should do it. But when your argument is that it can't be done, or won't work, the likely response is "well let's try it, and then we'll see."

  • ||

    No, a wall would not stop every single crossing. But it can be done

    No it can't. That's the point.

    it would dramatically lower the number of illegal crossings

    [citation needed]

  • Ken Shultz||

    "People who think you can construct an impenetrable wall through 1000 miles of desert are not starting from a strongly reasoned position."

    "Impenetrable" is the first thing wrong with that sentence.

    A flak jacket may not be impenetrable, but if it's reasonably effective, then it ain't useless.

  • Ron||

    the wall, actually fence, between North and South Korea works very well and people on the north side do want out so they go through china on the North which does not have a wall. you just have to have the will to put people there and we could easily do that its not hard.
    a 1000 miles with guards every quarter mile with 3 shifts only requires 12,000 people. not hard to find that many people who could use the work.

    BTW I don't believe in minimum wage

  • MWG||

    Except for the fact that that fence between the two Koreas also has mines and soldiers on both sides who are willing to shoot trespassers. If the US has the 'will' to do all that, I'd say we've got bigger problems than Mexican peasants crossing the board looking for shitty work.

  • chemjeff||

    Exactly.

    And if you go to some of the more fire-breathing right-wing sites, you will find people who want precisely this. They want the military to patrol the border (forget comme positatus) to stop the "invasion" of the brown-skinned people who are no different in their view from an invading army surging across a border.

  • Diane Merriam||

    I think you mean Posse Comitatus. And, unfortunately, it's just a law and the law can be changed. Of course I don't think people would want the consequences of employing the US military - as military - inside the country. But no one ever thinks when they want these big increases in government power that, sooner or later, the person who you abhor the most is going to be wielding that power you so willingly gave to his predecessor.

  • Ken Shultz||

    We already have a Border Patrol.

    No one is arguing that we should build a wall and leave the border unmanned, are they?

    We're manning the border now. Why wouldn't we keep doing so after a wall was built?

    You guys are getting married to these weird positions that don't really have anything to do with immigration.

    Again, some of this stuff is like creationist level derp.

    You think Trump wants to build a wall and leave the border unmanned? Really?

  • chemjeff||

    No. I think he wants the wall manned. But what will the rules of engagement be for all those border guards? Your examples of effective walls all involved border guards willing to use lethal force against trespassers. Is this what you want? If not, show me an example of an effective wall that wasn't backed up with massive amounts of lethal force. If not then there is no point to building a wall.

  • Ken Shultz||

    So you're saying we shouldn't build the wall because that will change the rules of engagement?

    That the wall won't be effective because the Border Patrol can't shoot to kill on sight?

    I don't see any arguments there that are about to persuade anybody that the wall shouldn't be built.

    Find a better argument. I can think of five off the top of my head.

  • chemjeff||

    There is no point to building a wall unless you are willing to adopt shoot-to-kill as the rule of engagement. Otherwise it will be less Berlin Wall and more Hadrian Wall.

  • Zeb||

    And both sides carefully monitor the DMZ in Korea. And I bet it takes more than 12,000 people to do it.

    If Mexico was also going to great pains to make sure no one ever got into or out of Mexico, it would be a lot easier to secure the border.

  • ||

    a 1000 miles with guards every quarter mile with 3 shifts only requires 12,000 people. not hard to find that many people who could use the work.

    All we need is an extra $12,000,000,000 a year or so to pay them. And about that sum doubled over to equip them.

    And wouldn't they be roughly as effective just sitting in a tower, without the wall? Keep in mind that even without the wall, we've got several hundred miles of extremely rough terrain separating the two countries. People I have known who have crossed the border illegally, which is many, have found that to be the actual obstacle. One more little fence in addition to the chasms, cliffs, and broad expanses of desert waste is not that big a deal.

    Because we actually do already have walls, and fences, and border guards. They just don't work very well. What does work - the only thing I've ever seen 'work' - is economics.

  • buybuydandavis||

    All we need is an extra $12,000,000,000 a year to pay them

    For 12,000 people works out to a salary of $1million/year. Nice work if you can get it.

    Explain to me more how Trump's math doesn't add up.

    Math Class is Tough

  • ||

    Oops. I put in an extra 0 in my off-the-cuff response to random internet person. I suppose that does invalidate my whole point, doesn't it. I didn't realize it was a mere $1.2B per year in direct raw personnel costs instead of $12B. I spent hours on that math, too!

    And totally ignore the point about the wall being unbuildable - that wasn't relevant anyway.

    /derp

  • buybuydandavis||

    Ooops, I make a factor of 10 mistake in my cost estimate, don't even notice, and still want to be taken seriously, because MUH FEELZ.

    No one has ever built a wall. It's impossible. Because MOAR FEELZ!

    Open Borders Uber Alles!

    PS - Barbie is my Math Professor. She's pretty and smells nice. Like Mommy.
  • Agammamon||

    The wall between N and S Korea is lined with mines and patrolled by people who will straight up kill you if they find you - no matter which way you're going.

  • Chip Chipperson||

    You're right, we can put a man on the moon, build mile-high skyscrapers, master supersonic flight, and send an SUV-sized rover to Mars, but building a thousand-mile wall is simply beyond the realm of what's 'possible in the world'. Totally.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Walls don't work because ladders. Everyone knows that.

  • timbo||

    We should just get Tommy Lee Jones from "No Country Old Men" to be cool as a cucumber and saddened by the state of affairs to gaze at the border.

    Fixed.

  • Chipper Morning Wood||

    I preferred him in Three Burials. Great fucking movie about the Mexican border.

  • OldMexican Blankety Blank||

    "[...] and [Trump's] total lack of understanding of basic economic concepts may be contributing to his erroneous belief [that Mexico can be compelled to pay for the border wall]"


    No kidding. Your claim that Trump lacks any understanding of basic economic concepts is no exaggeration. Unfortunately his utter ignorance contributes to erroneous beliefs about many other more serious issues, like the "trade deficit" and thr labor market (because of his ignorance of comparative advantage). Probably as many of you have read, Trumpistas are trumpeting the same ignorance by denying these basi concepts, like for instance their claim that comparative advantage is not a real thing, like John did just a few days ago.

  • Azathoth!!||

    These are always so funny. The billionaire is incapable of understanding economic concepts the people commenting from their employers place of business understand easily. Riiiiiiiight.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    But the biggest practical problem with a wall is its opacity. In fact, many Border Patrol agents oppose a concrete wall for precisely this reason (albeit quietly, given that they were also some of Trump's biggest supporters during the election). "A cinder block or rock wall, in the traditional sense, isn't necessarily the most effective or desirable choice," Border Patrol agents told Fox News. "Seeing through a fence allows agents to anticipate and mobilize, prior to illegal immigrants actually climbing or cutting through the fence."

    Simple solution: guard towers. Maybe every thousand feet or so. You know, kind of like a giant prison...

  • buybuydandavis||

    kind of like a border

  • Chipper Morning Wood||

    It sounds like you would have loved Soviet Union.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Trump, who still insists that his wall will be not a fence but an "impenetrable physical wall" of concrete, claims that it will cost between $10 billion and $12 billion. In early 2017, House Speaker Paul Ryan suggested that a similar amount of appropriations would be needed for the wall. Neither the president nor the speaker has revealed his methodology.

    They reached into their gaping assholes and pulled out a number, that was their methodology.

  • Vesparado||

    Important considerations here regarding the limits on the efficacy of a wall. Clearly we should add a mine field ...

  • ||

    Tower-mounted machine guns on motion sensors would add an extra layer of security, as well.

  • CE||

    What you need is several rows of walls, each with guard towers, machine guns, razor wire, land mines, sharp shooters, moats, staked pits, and trap doors. What better way to keep taxpayers from fleeing?

  • WesSeid||

    Wall or not, America better start enforcing its immigration laws or or it will wind up like the native Dutch who are now minorities in their main cities, or native Germans who will be a minority in their country decades from now, or France that will become a Muslim-majority country probably followed by Sharia Law if Marine Le Pen isn't elected President.

    Few people say Japan has too many Japanese people, or that Israel has too many Jews, yet for some reason Europe, Canada, and America are the only places where "diversity" is forced upon the native population. And lots of the "diversity" is low-IQ, third-world people, and they and their 10 kids will probably be on welfare forever.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Ethnonationalism is only evil when Whitey does it.

    When anyone else does it it's called "self determination".

  • woodNfish||

    The wall will work just fine which is why 65 other countries already have them.

  • Mesoman||

    Lots of silly arguments in the article, coupled with a few demonstrations that our legal system may have doomed us to not being able to defend ourselves.

    I live in Arizona. we are being overrun by border crossers. A friend of mine essentially has lost all of his property value because the government has not enforced the laws. His property is dangerous to even visit, much less live on. It is 20 miles north of the border.

    I have been on SAR exercises in the desert where we have to be very careful to *not* look like law enforcement or military or we are likely to be shot at by the smugglers. We find dead bodies all the time out there - of people who thought that since our border was nothing other than three strand barbed wire, they could make it here. The desert killed them, even though we have water stations and emergency phones for them to use.

    Part of our desert, far from the border, has warning signs saying that travel there is dangerous - because of border crossers. In one of our national monuments, travel is forbidden unless accompanied by rangers armed with M-14's.

  • yhrobinson||

    Hola, Mesoman:
    We're both Arizonans, I lived from 1949 till 2009 in both Somerton and Yuma. Since 2009 I have lived in Bisbee. I'm sure I don't know nearly as much about the border as you do but I have seen a bit of what goes on here.

    I'm curious about the property 20 miles north of the border that is dangerous to even visit and which has lost all of its value. Where is that property?

    Dead bodies "all the time"? How many have you found?

    In which National Monument (the only 2 on the border are Coronado and Organ Pipe) is travel "forbidden unless accompanied by rangers armed with M-14s"? I was in Vietnam in 1970-71 and at that time the M-14 had been almost completely phased out and replaced with the M-16. Are they still around for other than ceremonial uses? - that wooden stock looks better than the M-16, I guess.

    I don't doubt your information but things like this and the "overrun by border crossers" statement just don't jive with what I've experienced.

  • Mesoman||

    Yes, of course, absolutely of course, the wall will reduce immigration. When you make things harder, you get less of them. It is a basic principle of economics, whether harder means "more expensive" or harder in other ways.

    And yes, of course, no matter what you write, the actual barrier will vary from a wall to other kinds of barriers, including in some place natural barriers already in place.

    The humane way to treat national borders is to make sure that people can come here legally, and to take strong steps to minimize crossing by those who can not.

    "Wasteful security has always been the compromise that non-nationalists give to nationalists to obtain a better immigration system"

    If you are not a nationalist, please get the hell out of my nation and go find some libertopia where national defense is not needed. Good luck!

  • chemjeff||

    Yessir! Only flag-waving Real Muricans are allowed in this country! Amirite? USA USA USA

  • Mesoman||

    Yes, of course, absolutely of course, the wall will reduce immigration. When you make things harder, you get less of them. It is a basic principle of economics, whether harder means "more expensive" or harder in other ways.

    And yes, of course, no matter what you write, the actual barrier will vary from a wall to other kinds of barriers, including in some place natural barriers already in place.

    The humane way to treat national borders is to make sure that people can come here legally, and to take strong steps to minimize crossing by those who can not.

    "Wasteful security has always been the compromise that non-nationalists give to nationalists to obtain a better immigration system"

    If you are not a nationalist, please get the hell out of my nation and go find some libertopia where national defense is not needed. Good luck!

  • Brett Bellmore||

    A very reliable law of human nature: Somebody who doesn't want something done, will always imagine it attempted in ways that are doomed to fail.

    You're certainly demonstrating that.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    A very reliable law of human nature: Somebody who doesn't want something done, will always imagine it attempted in ways that are doomed to fail.

    You're certainly demonstrating that.

  • WesSeid||

    "As his opponents focus on the wall, the Trump administration targets immigrants from every direction."

    Such globalist exaggeration. Some would call it lies. Trump hasn't even repealed the "dreamers" DACA despite having said he would and having said it is unconstitutional. He's going to wind up letting millions of illegals stay despite them being lawbreakers and illegal invaders and despite his having said time after time "We are a nation of laws."

    Bill Clinton circa 1995 was probably tougher on illegal aliens than Trump is. Remember that? Remember Democrats in Congress applauding "xenophobic nationalist" Bill Clinton's speech against illegal aliens?

  • wootendw||

    Testing, 1, 2, 3. Testing 1, 2, 3

  • Yaromudry||

    Let's not forget that there was one wall in the 20th century that worked very well : the Iron Curtain separating the free world from the unfree.

  • jmomls||

    Literally not a wall.

  • Not a True MJG||

    These comments were fun.

    I haven't gotten to the cover story yet in my paper copy, but it looks mighty fine. Thank you and keep up the good work, Mr. Bier.

  • No Yards Penalty||

    Refreshing that the thread was hours old before the usual assortment of nationalist assholes arrived from The Federalist, Brietbart and whatever hole Alex Jones is hiding in these days.

  • Radioactive||

    So, what do you suggest, now that you've "proved" why it won't work? All negative and not solutions get you ignored.

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    Let us know when you dismantle the fence around your property, and remove the locks from the doors to your house.

  • Redcard||

    I must say I am beginning to get worried.

    It is more than 50 days since Drumpf was inaugurated and reason.com Republicans posing as libertarians are not on board with this wall?

  • Jr12||

    Libertarian values would be better served if Reason spent half as much time protesting the federally controlled welfare state as they do protesting the federally controlled border.

    The available choices are limited to state controlled borders and politicized arguments about who gets in and who doesn't, or anarchy's border free world. There is no such thing as a state controlled "open border," because the entire point of a border is its supposedly "defensive necessity." Inseparably entwined with the state's power for so called "defense," is the state's power to favor and discriminate.

  • josh||

    I wonder if Trump has ever heard of the Maginot Line....

  • kacamata||

    You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough

  • Mark22||

    The fact that the US government doesn't own the land where the borders are is a major problem that needs to be rectified, wall or not. And the sooner the better, because with development pressures and increasing land costs, this will only get worse the longer we put it off. Land owners should, of course, be compensated at current market prices.

    And we need a physical barrier. Whether it is particularly effective or whether people switch to overstaying their visas is irrelevant. You need to at least attempt to enforce your property rights in order to maintain them.

    Finally, we need to make it less attractive for people to stay in the country. Everybody should have a secure federal ID (i.e., something with a smartchip, digital signatures, QR codes) that identifies them as citizens or permanent residents, and that should be used consistently for identifying yourself for work, taxes, government services, and voting, and employers who employ illegals should be prosecuted.

    The way such proposals got killed in the past is by raising fear about "national databases" and "papers please", but both of those are fear mongering and have no basis in reality. In fact, a properly done national ID enhances privacy, because it means that we don't need intrusive crap like E-Verify or insecure social security numbers.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    The real problem, when you sift down to it, is that Mexico is a failed State, has been a failed State (or the next worst thing to that) for as long as anybody can remember, and for historical and cultural reasons is unlikely to become anything BUT a failed state for the foreseeable future.

    Now, failed States cause endless headaches for their neighbors. In the case of Guatemala, this isn't so noticeable, since Guatemala is another failed or failing State. But the mess in Mexico is constantly threatening to spill over into our territory, and that scares and angers the American Citizens who live near the border.

    Now, a border wall isn't going to solve these problems. Outright conquest of Mexico could (though it would create new problems) but is unlikely to happen until we get a great deal more annoyed than we are now. But a walk will help, if only by making those who live near the borer feel that somebody is listening to their concerns. Will it be too expensive? Maybe.

    But open borders won't work. At least, not until the actual immigration laws are changed, which I don't see any real popular support for. We can't afford to have a shadowy subculture of people who can't go the the authorities if something is wrong. We just can't.

  • Fk_Censorship||

    Why would you have an economic union with another country, but you only let goods travel freely across borders, but not people?

  • Wildbill2u||

    Contrary to the arguments of this article, walls can work. Israel put up a wall between itself and the Palestinians and cut down on terrorist incursions in a major way. Conversely, the wall between E. Germany and W. Germany back in the Cold War was very effective in reducing the flood of Germans trying to escape Communism.

    Will a wall be 100% effective. No. No one thinks that is realistic. But the good is not the enemy of the Perfect. A good wall can disrupt the unimpeded flow of illegals, and the other part of the equation would be legislation to develop a workable green card system like the Bracero program that operated from WW2 until the advent of the Kennedy Administration which closed it down at the request of labor unions. .

  • josh||

    "Will a wall be 100% effective. No. No one thinks that is realistic. But the good is not the enemy of the Perfect."

    True, but there's effective at stopping illegal immigration and then there's cost effective.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Meh, the wall is a big red herring. It may end up being an expensive red herring, but it's still just a red herring.

    Because we all know what would actually cut down on illegal immigration. Prosecuting people that employ folks not authorized to work in the US.

    So Trump's wall? It's just to distract folks from what he's not proposing.

  • mtrueman||

    "Prosecuting people that employ folks not authorized to work in the US."

    Not racist enough.

  • AZ Gunowner||

    If you drive westbound on I-8 from Phoenix to San Diego you will encounter a border patrol checkpoint somewhere before crossing the Colorado River (that is a few miles north of the border at that point, by not very far).

    Note that the checkpoint is only on the westbound side. Going from CA to AZ there is no checkpoint.

    Why, because the illegals come in through AZ (or NM) where it is much easier to get across the border and want to go to CA.

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    Incorrect, there is an internal checkpoint eastbound East of Yuma and after the intersection of I-8 and US-95.

  • CE||

    I see another problem -- sailboats.

  • CE||

    I also just checked the map of the USA, and there's another land border on the northern side, even longer than the one on the south. This is going to be expensive.

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    In that case, we'll just have to post the Unorganized Militia along the border, with instructions to "hold this line at all costs".

  • ||

    The wall won't work because it's in the wrong place. It needs to surround LAX, the airport in Los Angeles.

    But if you wall that off, won't they use some other airport?

    Dang! Sneaky furriners!

  • joebanana||

    Okay, here's an alternative solution, heavily armed American patriots patrol the border, and a bounty on all illegals.

  • SF Pete||

    see Israel, TSA tried reinventing the wheel, no more..as you demonstrated,..don't reinvent wheel, it's been done, and well, we will get there...

  • SF Pete||

    after Reagan deal, Dems reneged,..that is what got us where we are..idiot. study the history, guys like me lived thru..

  • Azathoth!!||

    Watched this show, Monkey Planet, over the weekend. In it, there was a segment about ring-tailed lemurs.

    It was the end of the dry season and food was scarce. One troop didn't have enough food and had to raid a neighboring troops territory to find enough to eat. They would steal into the territory and eat nervously until they were discovered--and then they would fight and get run off.

    Lemurs. Defending recognized borders and chasing off those who crossed without permission.

    There is no 'right' of movement.

  • Dr Duude||

    I think a better use of money would be to produce a tamper-proof national identity card which would be required to hold a job in the states. Any company hiring illegal aliens would face a $10K fine per illegal alien. Without work, most illegal aliens will self-deport. The remainder will turn up in our prisons eventually. We could also use this same tamper-proof national ID card for elections.

  • mapol||

    This is disgusting! We don't need a wall, for one thing. Secondly, it's a waste of money. Thirdly, it can result in untold amounts of property damage due to natural disasters, and the deprivation of people to earn money for their families.