The wall has never been about national security. Trump’s drivel about Syrian suicide bombers infiltrating America via Tijuana aside, every step toward its construction has been evidence to the contrary.
During his month-long Mexican standoff (no pun intended) with Congress, Trump effectively stole over a billion dollars from a quarter of a million Americans with government jobs, gambled it all on the wall and lost. What’s worse is he wagered America’s safety as his buy-in.
Terrorists attempt to enter the U.S. all the time. In fact, Department of Homeland Security records reported by the Washington Post reveal that 2,554 people on the terror watch list were intercepted in 2017 alone. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, however, can point to only six among them attempting to enter the U.S. through its southern border.
Ninety-one people on that same list were intercepted along America’s northern border, NBC reported, 50 of whom were U.S. citizens (but no one’s clamoring for a northern border wall). So what of the other 2,457?
CBP records confirm nearly 90 percent of those intercepted in 2017 were attempting to enter through airports, and the Transport Security Administration was among the agencies most affected by the shutdown.
What resulted was people with terrorist affiliations trying to come in through ports of entry made vulnerable by the absence of the many TSA agents who (surprise) didn’t want to perform a high-stress job for no money.
But Trump told America on his campaign trail he knew how to rig the system better than anybody, and on Feb. 15, he backed up that bluster.
Shortly after declaring a national emergency (which he admitted to the public wasn’t really an emergency just before his caddy arrived), Trump began siphoning money directly from the DHS budget at a time when his own security advisors told him vulnerability to cyberattacks is America’s top-priority threat.
Then again, why on Earth would Trump want to interfere with cyberattacks? They worked out well for him in 2016.
With all the energy and resources being diverted away from known vulnerabilities, the threat approaching the southern border must be serious. Trump talks about “the caravan” the way Cersei Lannister talks about the Dothraki.
If tens of thousands of Mexican drug lords, assassins and sex traffickers are roving across Juarez toward El Paso like Fury Road marauders, then America doesn’t need a wall; it needs mine fields and panoptical sniper towers (which would be less expensive and more effective than a wall anyway).
Of course, that’s hardly necessary. The numbers spinning out of the White House fail to include any context: nearly half of the convicted criminals intercepted crossing the southern border were guilty only of having tried to enter illegally in the past, according to CBP.
So what would drive a person to risk so much a second time after having failed already? I know drug dealers; they’re not that motivated.
According to Amelia Frank-Vitale, an anthropology doctoral candidate conducting her dissertation fieldwork in Honduras (where most of the migrants are from), the situation there is grim.
In her Washington Post column “You want to see a real emergency, Mr. President? Visit me in Honduras,” she details the half-failed state’s unprecedented levels of violence.
One of her subjects told her about smuggling himself to his mother’s house in the trunk of a car for fear of being executed by the gang in her hometown. Another spoke about her teenage daughter being taken by police, never to be seen or heard from again. A police officer told her he’d all but given up on law enforcement for all its corruption.
Most of the diaspora approaching the southern border is comprised of desperate Honduran asylum seekers fleeing a state that’s been unravelling into entropy since the coup in 2009, and violence there is reaching a crescendo.
Equally upsetting is the rhetoric surrounding “the caravan.” The word itself was strategically chosen for its historical association with the Islamic world, conjuring visions of dubious Persian merchants on camelback. Trump is simply antagonizing nearly 20 years of distrust and hatred toward the Middle East to kindle the ethnocentrism in his base.
It’s a simple magic trick: he says caravan, visions of somewhere vaguely Middle Eastern appear in his supporters’ peripheral awareness and before they know it, emotions they felt on the morning of 9/11 swim up from their subconscious. It’s a
psychological shortcut to make his base fear a band of Central American refugees so badly he wins the support he needs to begin constructing the wall in time for campaign season.
There’s a part of me that would almost have appreciated the elegance of such propaganda, but Trump ruined that, too. Being uncomfortable with subtlety, he simply tweeted “Middle Easterners are mixed in” with the caravan, as if nobody would check a globe to see if that made any goddamn sense. He may side with white nationalists, but he’s no Joseph Goebbels.
This is Trump’s 11th hour. Without the wall, he will not win reelection, and without reelection, he’ll never see the completion of his monument — because that’s all it’s
Civilizations throughout history and across the world have used monumental architecture to embed the state into the very landscape and project power across vast physical expanses, aggrandizing the ruler who commissioned them in the process.
It won’t be on the same scale as those of Washington or Lincoln, and it’s not as if they’ll be carving his face into Rushmore, but long after Trump is dead, American’s will no longer refer to it as the wall or even the southern border wall. They’ll call it Trump’s wall.
A quick survey of his structures will prove my point: Trump Plaza, Trump Tower, Trump University — the man would have branded his name onto the derrieres of his Miss USA contestants if it weren’t a human rights violation.
The wall is merely another way for Trump to smear his name onto the landscape to pacify his pathological insecurities, and if you think his name won’t be emblazoned on the wall in gold upon its completion, you’re not paying close enough attention.