Donald Trump’s border wall is a monument to xenophobic paranoia. Its function isn’t to bolster national security, but to alleviate nationalists’ psychological insecurity.
If the wall’s proponents were sincerely motivated by a concern for Americans’ safety and well-being, they would acknowledge that illegal border crossings are in long-term decline; that American municipalities with large populations of undocumented immigrants have lower crime rates than those that do not; and that Americans who live within 350 miles of the U.S. southern border are more likely to oppose a border wall than those who live farther away from the putative border “crisis.” Further, such earnest defenders of national security would also recognize that a wall wouldn’t be a rational means of resolving an illegal immigration crisis, even if we actually had one.
But the wall was never intended to protect public safety. Its purpose is to fortify an embattled conception of American identity. Undocumented immigration has been declining for a decade. But thanks to legal immigration, demographic change has been rapidly accelerating. And some white Americans have perceived this as a threat to their sense of social status and belonging in “their” own country. In such voters’ eyes, Trump’s wall guarantees the durability of the boundary between their America and the nonwhite world — and thus, the stability of the group identity on which their sense of self is precariously balanced. Trump projects his base’s fear and hatred onto a brown-skinned other, and then promises to put an “impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful” barrier between them (his supporters) and all human evil.
In other words, the wall is hella racist. And the attitudes it memorializes have fueled a broader set of needlessly cruel border enforcement policies, among them, the deliberate psychological torture of thousands of children.
So, that’s the main problem with Trump’s wall. One secondary problem: It is, apparently, very easy to saw through. As NBC News reports:
The Trump administration directed the construction of eight steel and concrete prototype walls that were built in Otay Mesa, California, just across the border from Tijuana, Mexico. Trump inspected the prototypes in March 2018. He has now settled on a steel slat, or steel bollard, design for the proposed border barrier additions. Steel bollard fencing has been used under previous administrations.
However, testing by DHS in late 2017 showed all eight prototypes, including the steel slats, were vulnerable to breaching, according to an internal February 2018 U.S. Customs and Border Protection report.
In a statement Thursday, DHS spokeswoman Katie Waldman suggested that the administration’s latest round of steel bollards are stronger than the prototypes were — and, while still not impenetrable, “require time and multiple industrial tools to breach, thereby providing U.S. Border Patrol agents additional response time to affect a successful law enforcement resolution.”
Nevertheless, the wall’s demonstrable penetrability offers hope to any immigrants who wish to follow the advice that Trump once offered to the graduates of Wagner College, in May 2004.
“Don’t give up. Don’t allow it to happen,” the mogul said at a commencent ceremony (in footage unearthed by The Daily Show). “If there’s a concrete wall in front of you, go through it. Go over it. Go around it. But get to the other side of that wall.”