Newsflash to both Donald Trump and Ann Coulter: that wall you’re saying the U.S. needs to build along its border with Mexico…it mostly exists. There aren’t any lasers, a shark-filled moat, or auto-turrets, but it’s there. Don’t believe me? Here it is in Mexicali, California.
And New Mexico.
The New Mexico part of the fence might seem a little haphazard, but it’s important to realize how the terrain is. The way the mountains are, it really doesn’t make sense to put a big fence up. No one is (or should) going to try to sneak into the country that way. It’s just too dangerous and probably a development nightmare for builders. There’s also this fence in the Sonoran Desert which marks the U.S.-Mexico border.
So why the smaller fence? A part of it has to do with how dangerous the desert is. It’s the climate. The Sonoran Desert is, well, a desert, with blistering heat, mountains, and very little water. When the wall was built in the mid-to-late 2000’s there was no point in building a massive structure because the desert is supposed to be a natural deterrent. It makes no sense to try to cross over through a desert which would probably lead to your death. The Arizona Republic talked to a Border Patrol spokesperson last year who confirmed how dangerous it was.
“It’s the harshest climate along the U.S.-Mexico border. When you’ve got over 30 days of 100-degree weather, that makes it deadly for anybody crossing out there.”
Which is pretty much why coyotes were using this desert to get into the U.S. There aren’t a ton of humans there, which is why the cartels probably use the route. They’d probably still use the route, even if the fence was a massive structure. Desperate people will go anywhere, just look at the Texas border crossings from last year. The Texas fence is done, but it’s not a wall across the state. A lot of that has to do with topography. There are plenty of forests along the border in West Texas, once you get past El Paso, and barely any roads. Lupe Dempsey told FOX News in 2013 why illegal immigrants tend to avoid West Texas.
“…it pushes the migrants into more remote areas where it is easy to get lost, it is very dangerous.”
There’s also a lot of ranchland, meaning the government would have to deal with eminent domain to build the fence. Texans aren’t a big fan of eminent domain and it makes sense for them to fight against it. There’s honestly no point to a fence in most of West Texas because of the lack of people, the lack of roads, and the lack of towns. Geography is another factor as the border gets closer to the Gulf of Mexico and McAllen, Brownsville, and Progreso. There’s so much private land up against the Rio Grande River it almost makes no sense to put a fence there. There is fencing around the Progreso Port of Entry, which appears to stretch about seven miles west into Weslaco and about four miles to the east into Mercedes. The “fence” then becomes the Mercedes District Settling Basin, more farmland, and forest. It picks up again closer to the Border Patrol office in San Benito then ends in Landrum where a bunch of private land is. It picks right back up after Landrum and is pretty solid all the way into Brownsville.
One thing that’s telling is how illegal immigrants are able to get through the fenced-in cities of Brownsville and McAllen before getting lost in Brooks County which is about an hour or so north. It’s in the pentagon-shaped area in the image below where a lot of Border Patrol rescues tend to happen because of how bad the terrain is and how easy it is for people to get lost.
So if this is the case, then where are the illegal immigrants getting in from? Is it running through farmland the Border Patrol doesn’t have permission to get into? Is it hopping the fence near UT-Rio Grande Valley? Is it swimming into South Padre Island? Or is it a staffing issue? If it’s a lack of Border Patrol officers (and there are around 21,000 in the U.S.), then would doubling them actually work or would it cause more problems? The Daily Beast had a piece in 2013 looking at what happened when the Border Patrol moved into Ajo, Arizona. The feds decided to build brand-new houses, instead of using the ones already there. It ended up costing taxpayers $12.7M.
Linda Sharp, a 63-year-old Ajo real estate broker, says when she first got wind of the government housing development in 2010, she thought it sounded “extremely fishy,” considering there were already dozens of cheap homes going for fire-sale prices on the heels of the housing bust. In 2012, she wrote letters to each member of Congress because she was “indignant.”
Critics like Sharp says each of the Ajo homes cost about $600,000 to build, a huge markup from the $100,000 average cost of an existing home in the area.
But in a statement emailed to The Daily Beast, Bill Brooks, a spokesman for CBP, which oversees the Border Patrol, says the Ajo houses cost just $340,000 a piece. Brooks says the remaining $6.4 million paid for water, sewer, electrical lines, and roads for the first 21 homes and another 25 still in the planning phase. Those houses haven’t been built yet, and at the moment there’s no funding to do so, Brooks says.
It’s possible the Ajo situation is just an blip on the radar and not something which happens on a regular basis. But if there are questions about GSA spending, military waste, Animal Division waste, and State Department waste, then there should also be questions about Border Patrol waste. Would a wall with laser sharks, AT-AT walkers, a moat, the Avengers, and mines be worth it? Or is it better to look at why illegal immigrants are coming over, whether it’s impeachable policy by current and former presidents, or the U.S. current immigration in general. Donald Trump and Ann Coulter can yell about building a wall all they want, but it already mostly exists. All they’re doing is duping people who haven’t looked into the issue or don’t care. In Trump’s case, it’s possible he’s just tapping into the illegal immigrant issue as a way to get support. In Coulter’s case, either she’s ignorant of what the border looks like (which makes no sense because she’s extremely smart) or she’s just ignoring what it looks like to make money.