In 2016, Donald Trump ignited the imaginations of a vocal and politically-potent-in-Republican-primaries minority of American voters with a promise to build a big beautiful Wall across our border with Mexico.
Publicly and privately, current and former border state officials — like me — scoffed at the idea and dismissed it as a simplistic political ploy. And that part about making Mexico pay for it? Well…that was met with a great deal of amused head-scratching.
Why the scoffing, dismissing, and head-scratching? Those of us who actually know something about the border and how the movement of people across it actually works knew that the day will never come when a 2,000 mile “Great Wall of America” really exists.
There are mountains. There are deserts. And yes, there’s that nettlesome Rio Grande River that forms about half of the border.
Even members of Trump’s Administration have been known to half-seriously ponder the question of how to build a Wall along or in the Rio Grande.
Regardless of how much sleep one loses on a nightly basis about stopping all those Mexicans from invading Iowa, serious people have known from the day Trump made his pledge that the Wall was a Myth.
There will be no Great Wall on the Mexican border, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need borders
Let’s be clear. Sovereign nations need borders. Real border security means knowing who is coming across, why they are doing so, and when do they leave.
Today, a million people will legally cross the U.S. – Mexico border, both coming and going, just as happened yesterday and will happen tomorrow. That’s not just a good thing. It’s critical to commerce, jobs, and the vitality of not just border states, but the entire nation.
But anyone who understands reality will agree that more “illegality” — whether it be drugs, gang activity or immigration infractions — crosses the border through federal checkpoints than by swimming the Rio Grande or sneaking through the desert in the dead of night. And those checkpoints are flanked with fences and manned by armed guards.
Then there is the fact that the majority of the 11 million (or whatever the real number is) undocumented immigrants in the U.S. today DIDN’T swim the Rio Grande or dig a tunnel. They came here legally through those checkpoints or airports or that other border with Canada — and then, for a host of reasons, didn’t leave.
Maybe they got married. Maybe they found a really good job. Maybe they have family members they don’t want to leave. Or…maybe they just like it here.
But for whatever reason, they violated the terms of their LEGAL entry into the U.S., knowing that the government would likely lose track of them. Let’s be honest: Mastercard and American Express are far more skilled at knowing where we are and what we are doing than the federal government.
And yes, some of those undocumented folks are committing crimes and exploiting public benefits. Statistics show, however, that undocumented immigrants — as a demographic category — are no more criminal than the rest of us.
A wall wouldn’t fix the biggest immigration issues anyway
But forget about all those inconvenient facts. The answer is a Wall. A really expensive Wall. A Wall that won’t be built when the engineers, architects, and real-world security experts are finally involved in the conversation.
This would all be entertaining if the politicians on both sides of the two-party aisle hadn’t bought into the whole Myth. Today, we are seeing funding for the entire federal government, the fate of more than 700,000 DACA kids, a children’s health program and even our legitimate military readiness being held up by intractable insistence or opposition to a mythical Wall.
Even the president and his advisors are beginning to waffle on what their Wall would really be. Trump talks about it needing to be “see-through” in places, whatever that means. Depending on the day of the week, they acknowledge that much of the Wall may actually be “virtual”.
In short, they are beginning to describe a system of border security that even Democrats have traditionally supported and which Congress actually authorized years ago.
But…for political reasons, both sides insist on calling it a “Wall,” and insist on fighting over it — even if it means perpetuating the costly and absurd gridlock that has become Washington, DC., and that is hardly mythical.
Both sides are guilty. And it is truly disturbing that all of this stems from a Myth born from the “uninformed” (As suggested by the President’s own Chief of Staff) proclamations of a presidential candidate who ended up in the White House.
Seldom has a Myth become so powerful.
Editor's Note: This article originally published on The Jack News, and has been modified slightly for publication on IVN. It was republished with permission from the author.