When Donald Trump talks about building a wall along the Mexico-US border, he speaks to a largely ignorant audience. Most Americans don’t live anywhere close to Mexico, and consequently, know very little about the border or its challenges.
I lived in Yuma, Arizona for two years, during the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Act) period, and worked on many stories with the US Border Patrol and US Customs.
People who live below the US/Mexico border and try to cross into the US, are also plagued by ignorance. Few are from Mexico’s border region, in fact, large numbers of immigrants are from Central and South American countries south of Mexico. Many have no idea how harsh, desolate and deadly the terrain is, especially the Sonoran Desert in summer months. They underestimate the seedy coyotes and others responsible for smuggling people into the states. They often don’t make it. Sometimes they die by the dozens from heat and thirst.
Here is what people who live along the national border know: there are always easy ways to slip across, and Trump’s border wall won’t change it.
Local knowledge is everything in border towns, and regardless of whether the cargo is drugs or people, smuggling will never end, it is ingrained as a part of border culture.
Problems From Within
Existing, internal problems within the United States are the biggest challenge any border wall could face. From rough, unforgiving terrain, to lawsuits, from imminent domain issues all the way to Meth addiction, yes, Meth.
Lest we forget, the concept of a border wall is nothing new. Large sections of walls and fence already exist.
A few years ago, I heard a story about the wall from a Cochise County, Arizona deputy. He was hired to moonlight at night on the border in his police car as a fence guard.
Fence guard, you ask?
Isn’t that the Border Patrol’s job?
What this deputy did was make big bucks, sitting in his squad car watching movies on his laptop.
He was paid to simply be there because having a law enforcement vehicle present deterred theft. What was being stolen? Nothing short of the fence itself.
Meth addicts, always looking for metal to sell to scrap dealers, were making big bucks stealing fence sections when the construction crews went home. As I learned from that deputy, this is a massive problem. The thieves were costing the project serious bucks and constantly setting back schedules.
Drug addicts like to steal metal but they aren’t alone. According to AZCentral.com, a former Air National Guardsman was sentenced to 15 months in a federal prison in 2010, for stealing and selling scrap metal from the U.S. border fence project in Arizona. 50-year old Robert Kelley, was ordered to pay almost $43,000 in restitution. This same former soldier was part of the military crews assigned with building fences along the border in 2007 and 2008. Proving that drug dealers aren’t the only border fence thieves, Kelley reportedly spent his illegal profits buying a handgun and cowboy boots, not to mention a few tools. He was charged with stealing at least five truckloads of scrap metal, earning $11,450.
This is the kind of stuff Trump isn’t likely to Tweet about.
Trump is having some trouble at this point getting his own Congress to fund his wall. It now looks like, if he can get the funds, these security issues will plague the “Great Wall” at levels mirroring the thousands of miles of construction that are planned. The cost and improbability of providing the necessary security indicate that a lot of taxpayer purchased metal may end up as cash lining the pockets of meth dealers and thieves.