I’ve written about immigration policy before, and this is not that kind of post.
Instead, I am addressing a conventional fiction that “there is no wall” on the border of Mexico and the US. I’ve found that this is a surprisingly widespread belief.
We don’t even have to go to Mexico to get them pay it. Legislation is already in place for the wall, and for funding. With some modifications, we could have that wall.
You see, we have finished building about 60% of a wall. It’s actually a fence, but if you’ve seen it, it’s pretty big. And I think you’ll find the consensus is that this is much more realistic.
The total length of the border is just under 2,000 miles. Roughly half of that distance is the Rio Grande (which gave rise to the derogatory term for Mexican immigrants, wetback, as many illegals used to swim the river to get to the US).
Securing the border
In 1994, a National Border Patrol Strategic Plan started the process of improving security on the border to stem the flow of illegal immigration. The post-9/11 war on terror gave this attempt a big boost, with the Bush administration pushing hard to build a fence and ultimately passing a series of laws.
In other words, we have had legislation in place for many years to build the wall. And it’s largely funded.
Quite a bit of the wall has been built
So far, the US has built roughly 600 miles of fence. Taking out the river, we’re more than halfway there.
(The remaining land is handled by the Border Patrol and various infrared and technical contraptions.)
The Rio Grande
Now, here’s where it gets complicated: We have this big river, the Rio Grande.
Putting a fence in a river causes all kinds of environmental problems, which even if you’re a conservative, are cause for some concern (I live in Florida, and have seen the damage that the Tamiani Trail did to the Everglades, and while a porous fence isn’t nearly as bad as a dam, there are some real issues at stake here.)
No worries! In 2006, the Real ID Act was passed, which, in part, gave the Secretary of Homeland Security (then Michael Chertoff) the ability to waive environmental regulations in this context. He really wanted a wall, so he did just that.
Yet, we still don’t have a fence completed.
A major problem is the fact that there are three Native American reservations that sit on the border in Arizona. This leaves a gap in the “wall” which is occupied by sovereign Indian nations.
Most notable is the Tohono O’odham reservation, which is huge — about the size of Connecticut — and includes the vast Sonora Desert. Citing its sovereignty, it once successfully barred the Border Patrol from entering the reservation. They’ve since changed their tune, since now, this opening in the border has driven drug smugglers into the area (as well as illegals, who are dying in the thousands trying to cross the Sonoran Desert).
This is a major issue: we have to figure out a way to build a wall through a sovereign Indian nation. It’s not insignificant. Imagine a wall going through your own neighborhood — the Native Americans are not crazy about this idea. And we can’t move the border south, nor north. It has to be a wall right through these Indian nations.
In other words, it’s a bit more complicated.