by Oli Dugmore
Tuesday, 3
November 2020
Video
16:04

Where is Donald Trump’s wall?

Four years on, it remains unfinished and unloved
by Oli Dugmore
The incomplete wall at Laredo, Texas

The first thing I wanted to see in Texas was the wall. Over the last five years, that phrase had accumulated an awful weight hadn’t it? The Wall. Not exactly a bundle of laughs to think about, but the further south you go in Texas, the more The Wall is on people’s minds.

One of Trump’s first acts as President was Executive Order 13767. It was the formal declaration that aimed to turn a campaign slogan into a concrete reality. Years of Washington politicking followed. When Trump demanded the best part of $6 billion to fund The Wall in late 2018, disputes over this bill lead to a government shutdown that lasted 35 days — the longest in US history.


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At one point during the wrangling, Trump declared a National Emergency. Even Ann Coulter, perhaps the biggest, loudest immigration hawk in America, was unimpressed: “the only national emergency is that our President is an idiot.”

Near Laredo, The Wall was unbuilt. The surveyors have marked a potential route with short stakes and ribbon. It weaves and winds along a no man’s land between the riverbank and the nearest American building — a colossal looming shopping mall that taunts its impoverished southern neighbour. Next door was a dilapidated hotel whose only occupants were border patrol thermal imaging cameras. They identify would-be illegal aliens through the thick cane on their way to Tommy Hilfiger.

Danny Perales worked as a border agent for 30 years and lives in Laredo. He voted Trump in 2016, has already voted Trump in 2020 but is firmly opposed to a border wall. In his mind there’s no need for further barriers in and around this crossing, which is the busiest inland port of entry and also one of the oldest between Mexico and the US. When Danny started patrolling the border, he says there were 65 agents in total. By the time he retired, he was running a station which was the base of operations for more than 400 guys. Initially, the best technological support available to him came in the form of his own ears, listening for the snap of cane and hushed Spanish.

He maintains that the old methods, combined with technological advancements, are more than adequate to police Laredo’s border with its Mexican sister city, Nuevo Laredo. He thinks that The Wall should be built elsewhere. And he’s not alone. In South Texas, a truly bipartisan coalition of Democrats and Republicans has formed to oppose construction of the barrier. They all have their reasons. Danny’s reason, above all, was the Morelet’s seedeater, a prize bird for twitchers — easily disturbed by any wall building.

In Laredo, at least, the birds were lucky. Elsewhere along the southern border, there are 400 miles of The Wall. Hardly any of it was new, most of it being a replacement for older border defences built by older presidents.

Trump had promised that Mexico would pay for the wall. Instead, it cost taxpayers billions more than initial building contracts had promised. Trump’s wall cost five times more than fencing built under the Bush or Obama administrations. Attitudes to immigration across the country were softening — Danny was more representative of the population at large than Trump was.

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Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
2 years ago

I don’t know. I haven’t been there. But it took two or three years of overcoming all sorts of courts and objections before being allowed to start on the ‘big beautiful fence’ . One head of the Border Agency (or some such) recently tweeted that the fence was already helping to reduce the number of people, drugs and trafficked kids coming into the US. He was blocked by Twitter.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
2 years ago

It remains a work in progress. Ironically, in cities where Trump is not necessarily beloved, quite a few “walls” are going up in the form of boarded windows and doors in anticipation of the mob. But, people in those same cities tell me that walls do not work.

Paul Hunt
Paul Hunt
2 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Well, people similarly board and barricade their houses against tropical storms. Should the USA spend £6bn building some of a wall along the Eastern seaboard? Boards and walls are not the same thing, also both your metaphor and my metaphor are stupid.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
2 years ago

There are 389 miles of wall built by Trump against the unrelenting opposition of the Democrats, who see the poor, uneducated and illegal as vital to their political future. The article reads like it was written by a breezy tourist who talked to a few people one morning, spent 14 minutes on Google research and turned it in an hour later. Fast work, if not good.

Alex Mitchell
Alex Mitchell
2 years ago

Whatever your views, Trump was elected on a platform that was strongly centered on this and then the establishment blocked it. Sounds disturbingly familiar to the horribly protracted Brexit saga.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
2 years ago

Where is the wall? Ask the Democrat majority House of Representatives, they have made scuppering it job one.

Paul Hunt
Paul Hunt
2 years ago
Reply to  7882 fremic

Underreported- every Obama and Clinton policy that was scuppered is marked in history but the delay in getting the ‘wall’ started is caused by the House. However, I would be interested to see what was spent after all the deals, private funding and Presidential Edicts.

M Spahn
M Spahn
2 years ago

On the one hand, we have all sorts of people arguing the wall would be ineffective when what they really mean is they find it morally objectionable. They said Israel’s wall would never curb terrorism and then lo and behold it did. I don’t think the wall is the slightest bit morally objectionable.

On the other hand, I think in this case the preponderance of evidence really does suggest the wall is not particularly effective, and the effort should go into improved border surveillance, and measures to keep people from working easily, overstaying visas, and clogging up the courts with bogus asylum claims, if we are really serious about getting illegal immigration under control.

Jordan Flower
Jordan Flower
2 years ago

I quite enjoyed that Biden rally last week where all the 2 dozen (or 3 dozen?) attendees had “social distance circles” drawn out on the ground for them. Apart from the fact that the edge of each circle was about 2 feet apart, they seemed to be very comfortable with the idea of drawing a big thick border around every person, for the sake of protection.

Paul Hunt
Paul Hunt
2 years ago
Reply to  Jordan Flower

A) Since when is anyone saying rub out the national border? b) why is it funny to point out every time non-republicans and people against the Mexico border wall would use a boundary to delineate two things. People are also not going to knock down the walls of their houses to show their opposition to the practicality of a border wall, they are also not going to build a wall around their car to make it safer to drive. Before you say, I’m British and have no skin in your game, but your argument is bad.

Jordan Flower
Jordan Flower
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Hunt

re: A) – Perhaps you haven’t heard the chants of American far leftists “no border, no wall, no USA at all”. These aren’t some fringe PDX outliers; they’re all over the country. We have politicians who are openly pro open borders, a position vehemently opposed by Bernie only 4 years ago, calling it a libertarian “koch brothers scheme”. Even Bernie knew that to implement a generous welfare state, restricted immigration is a necessity.
Re: B) – It’s funny because we were told for four years that suddenly because Dromf wanted it, walls were somehow “racist”. Did that make the existing 700 miles built under previous presidents retroactively racist? Or just the portions that Trump reenforced?
It’s funny because since about 2000, border walls in the entire world have increased by some exponential factor of ten. Are all of these countries also racist? Why haven’t all of these other nations been enlightened by the American left who baselessly claim WaLLs doNT wOrK.
It’s funny because nobody gave a sh*t when the 2014 immigration crisis hit, and Obama reopened the family detention facilities in Dilley and Karnes City, TX, that were abysmally awful living conditions, requiring children to be separated to be put in more humane conditions, due to the Flores settlement (which is the same set of laws that required child separation under Trump). No one cared that he deported more than any other president in history, including Trump’s current numbers, leaving many children orphaned.
This entire discussion is completely partisan and politically opportunistic, dripping with hypocrisy.
Not sure why you’d need to build a wall around your car, when your car is already, quite literally, a 3D barrier on wheels.
I’m fully aware a house wall and a border aren’t the same thing. But they operate on the same principle.

Paul Hunt
Paul Hunt
2 years ago

There’s a great BBC documentary with comedian Susan Perkins, Sue Perkins: Along the US-Mexico Border. She is an unapologetic softy who is just meeting people as she gets driven from Tijuana to El Paso and gets sadder and sadder as she sees more and more structures hurting people in the US and in Mexico. Not sharp journalism but just a funny Brit’s journey which allows her to actually talk to people about what’s happening now.

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 years ago

The Great Wall of China is a wall. The Berlin Wall was a wall. This isn’t a wall, it’s a crappy-looking fence

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Your aesthetic sense aside, it deters illegal immigration, the only thing it is meant to do.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
2 years ago

The Wall is there,but As Trump respects ‘Private Land” he has to overcome objectors,
I’m sure EU open borders policy will Change…Recent Terrorist islamic outrages in Paris,Nice,Vienna citizens will demand their governments are more Circumspect on who enters the country!

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
2 years ago
Reply to  Robin Lambert

I do not see the EU slowing on open borders. They have outsourced their immigration policy to people smugglers, and I very much doubt they will take it back/

Paul Hunt
Paul Hunt
2 years ago
Reply to  Robin Lambert

This is a statement that taints the debate and becomes the focus of ‘the libtards’- it’s prejudiced and racist and factually miles off the mark. 1. It starts with the idea that people are dying to take up arms and overthrow the government to install a racist despot and end capitalism which (I’m sorry to tell you) needs the foreign labour.
2. Closed borders don’t stop terrorism, there is no one place the terrorists live that you can encircle and keep safe (Except Palestine of course…) Except in countries that have had populist takeovers already (Poland, Austria etc), the EU Council is well aware that terrorists don’t sneak into Europe on smallboats, scimitars between their teeth, and they aren’t sneaking into the USA from Mexico: (why would they, the guns, money etc they need are already in America not in the Mexican desert, not to mention that most terrorism is Domestic according to data from CSIS the US’s top bipartisan security thinktank) (https://www.theguardian.com….

In Europe young men are radicalised online and if they travel abroad its by plane, and they receive money from an organised criminal group, so these organisations don’t need to risk life a death crossing an actual sea or desert to get into Europe. Just the first ones I checked, the 2020 Vienna shooter was born in Vienna, the 2005 London bombers were born in northern England, the Paris bombers were Belgian and French. The Madrid Bombers were a mix of Morrocans and Spanish, the Charlie Hebdo shooters were Parisian. Just to set the record straight.