Following President Trump’s emergency declaration (Read the White House factsheet) to build the wall, it is important to better understand the terrible condition of our national border with Mexico.
I had the opportunity to investigate America’s border with Mexico about 60 miles east of San Diego in 2007. My guides were a group of volunteers who would take turns with binoculars watching the border and communicating with the Border Patrol when they saw people approaching our border.
My first words upon seeing the condition of the border were all four letter words, because I saw that the secure border fencing I had imagined and read about didn’t exist there.
What I witnessed was merely a vehicle barrier, using iron water-well pipes as the uprights, and a railroad rail welded in place at about the three foot level. It was an effective vehicle barrier, but utterly ridiculous as a pedestrian barrier. Children could walk under the single rail; adults could sit on it for a moment before stepping over and high-fiving the uprights as a goal post.
The shameful state of our border was a betrayal of our government’s duty to defend our border and therefore, all Americans.
My border guides reported finding empty backpacks with drug residues, torn dresses and ladies’ underwear, often near what they described as ‘rape trees,’ where women would be tied up by the ‘coyotes’ that exploit the illegals during their trek. They also me told of finding many of what the Border Patrol calls “OTMs” or “other than Mexicans,”–people from the eastern hemisphere that attempted to smuggle themselves into America at its most vulnerable point.
The barrier was ridiculously easy to cross. Worse, it was only built in flat terrain and ended at every hill, allowing pedestrians unwilling to step over the rail an easy alternative—walk around it, and off-road vehicles could similarly bypass the vehicle barriers in many areas. In reality there was virtually nothing to stop anyone from crossing our border.
This section of the border has features making it very attractive for illegals, drug smugglers, human traffickers and criminals because of the proximity to roads. At the closest points, Interstate 8 is just 1.3 miles from the border, and Old Highway 80 is just 350 feet from the border, making it easy for friends or coyotes to pick up people after crossing the border.
About a mile south of the border is the Mexican town of Ejido Jacume, from where a network of well-travelled-looking unpaved roads lead towards the border at various places where there are no legal border crossings.
The humanitarian crisis was on full display every day to the volunteer border observers, particularly when they saw those who had walked a great many miles across a dangerous desert. They told me they saw children and adults suffering dehydration, snake bites, sunburn, broken limbs, and other injuries and ailments. Once reported to the Border Patrol, many were able to receive medical care, though others might not have survived the dangerous trek. Absent our open border, prospective immigrants would not have been tempted to make the illegal and dangerous trek across the desert that endangers their children, and pursued legal procedures to come to America at safe border crossings.
The border in this area was of course patrolled by the Border Patrol, but they can’t be everywhere on a 2,000 mile border, even if the force was double or greater. We need more Patrol agents, but absent a wall or fence to slow or stop people, they cannot do the job by themselves any more than could a ‘neighborhood watch’ protect anyone who leaves the door to their home wide open at night.
Acoustic and other “technology” sensors were in use at this location at the time of my visit, and they in fact do warn the patrol of illegals crossing, but by the time they get to the site, due to the closeness of roads to the border, illegals have often dispersed or been picked up by smugglers or friends. The patrol road along the border was regularly raked smooth to make footprints stand out, but this “sensor” can be useless because the illegals may be long gone by the time the patrol next visits, and indeed, I saw footprints that crossed the barrier and the smooth sand.
So the Democrats desire to reply entirely on “technology” to stop illegals from crossing is as dangerous as would be removing the doors to your house and relying for your life entirely on an alarm.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said with great distain last week that she might consider a “Normandy fence” for perhaps just 30 miles. Well, a Normandy fence is effectively like the vehicle barriers at Jacumba: it wouldn’t stop pedestrians, and just a few dozen miles would not greatly increase our border security—but that’s the idea if you believe in open borders and unlimited illegal immigration. Today’s Democrats in Congress do not want to stop illegal immigration at all or they would support the full wall, and their refusal to defend our border is forcing the president to use his emergency powers.
It is a dangerous lie that fences and walls don’t work or are obsolete. Indeed many nations are rapidly building fences and walls to stem the unlimited flow of refugees to countries unable to aid them or to stop terrorism. In Israel, the Gaza fence halted routine terrorist attacks in Israel—ask the Israelis if they want to scrap their fence. To halt Syrian and other refugees, some eastern European countries rapidly built hundreds of miles of border fencing.
In the years since my border tour, that section of the border has been upgraded. Somewhat. The formerly three-foot-rail vehicle-only barrier has been upgraded to also stop pedestrians by extending it to about ten feet in height with steel slats. You can see this on online maps. However, the fencing still ends as soon as the ground rises, and that means pedestrians just need to walk a mile or so to the next hill where the fence ends.
While there was partial border security at the Jacumba site at the time of my visit, and while it was later upgraded somewhat, more than a thousand miles of our border still have absolutely no barriers at all. It’s an easy swim across the Rio Grande (Coyotes just use inner tubes and little rafts, and people routinely swim) or they just walk across the desert and they are in.
Building a wall or fence that effectively halts illegal immigration, drug smuggling, human trafficking, terrorist and gang infiltration at the most vulnerable places will truly increase our national security, and the first job of any military in history has been defending its borders.
President Trump is exactly right to protect the American people and follow his constitutional responsibilities to defend our borders using both his emergency powers and Congressionally approved funding to build the wall. Congress should offer its full support for this critical element of our national defense.
Art Harman is the Director of the Coalition to Save Manned Space Exploration. He was the Legislative Director and foreign policy advisor for Rep. Stockman (R-Texas) in the 113th Congress, and is a veteran policy analyst and grass-roots political expert. His expertise includes foreign relations, border security/amnesty, national security, transportation, foreign broadcasting and NASA/space policy.
Mr. Harman developed the strategy to kill the 2013 Senate “gang of eight” amnesty bill as violating the Origination Clause, and provided policy advice to the Trump campaign, transition. and White House. He wrote what became the ‘bible’ of post-Brexit trade relations which was introduced in 2016 by Sen. Mike Lee as S. 3123, the United Kingdom Trade Continuity Act. Harman is a frequent guest on radio shows on key policy issues, and is an expert photographer.