A border wall for $55
All this recent talk about walls got me thinking. History books and legends are full of examples of the need for and laborious building of walls around cities, countries and various structures.
The Wall of Jericho was built thousands of years before Christ and kept the city population safe — for a while, anyway. The city of Troy was protected from Greek invaders by a huge wall, that is, until the Trojan War and the infamous Trojan horse ploy. There is the Great Wall of China, all 13,000 miles of it, that kept out invaders who sought to overthrow several Chinese dynasties. The wall around the Alamo foiled early Indian attackers but later proved to be pretty ineffective. And then there was the Berlin Wall, which divided East and West Germany for 28 years and then was destroyed in spectacular televised fashion in 1989.
The point, of course, is that walls do protect those inside, but they are not necessarily forever.
To keep out who President Trump calls “the criminal element,” another history-making wall project is being proposed. The president has often said he needs $5.7 billion to build it, but news reports now say that to actually complete his vision, Congress would have to approve a total of $18 billion. (This is all part of the administration’s new master plan for U.S. border security that carries an estimated price tag of $33 billion over a 10-year span.)
Let’s face facts. The problem of our porous borders has been around for decades, with only occasional Band-Aid fixes along the way. We all know what happens to a problem that is ignored. It gets worse and increasingly costlier to manage. That’s where we are today with our immigration problem.
We have to start somewhere to fix what is broken, and we’re working from a disadvantage following years of neglect. Politicians from both sides of the aisle agree: America has a border problem. But to what degree? Is it a “humanitarian and national security crisis,” as the president insists, or a simple “humanitarian challenge” and “manufactured crisis,” as the Democratic leadership calls it?
The realty is somewhere in the middle of all the partisan talking points. But one thing is for sure: Our politicians are too caught up in their own egos to find a way to keep the country safe and manage those who would like to enter and live in our country legally.
The scenes we see on the nightly news — refugee families crammed into tent cities along the U.S.-Mexico border and reports that some separated and traumatized children may never see their parents again — are heartbreaking. Sure looks like a crisis for those people who left their home, trekked hundreds of miles north and now live in tent cities with no amenities. Some of those migrants, maybe even many of them, would probably make stellar American citizens, if given the chance. But we have yet to find a reliable way to ferret out those of the criminal persuasion. Not all should be allowed in, but not all should be kept out.
The lack of definitive and long-range action from official Washington is either pure self-absorbed politics (Let’s make sure not to give in to the other side!) or callous disregard. Either way, it sickens me.
Both Democrats and Republicans seem to agree that more money is needed to hire more U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, more sophisticated surveillance technology and more inspection equipment for our ports of entry. The Democrats vehemently say they do not want to and will not fund a wall. Yet a bill introduced in the Democrat-controlled House early this month includes $1.3 billion for “new fences” in the Rio Grande Valley area and the replacement of “secondary fencing” in San Diego and other locations. So, the party of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agrees a border barrier, albeit not so long or tall, is needed.
The sticking point is that word — “wall” — and the price tag the president has slapped on it.
Let’s do some math. When all is said and done, the wall will cost $18 billion. That sounds like a boatload of money, doesn’t it? But divide $18 billion by the 328 million men, women and children in the U.S. and, well, that comes out to about $55 apiece. When you think of it that way, would you pony up $55 per person in your household to help break the political stalemate, end the prospect of more government closures and ensure fewer people illegally crossing over the Mexico border?
I’m sick of the politics. Where do I send my $55 check?
* Diane Dimond is an investigative journalist and syndicated columnist.