What in the World: Do border barriers work?

In an increasingly walled-off world, Pres. Trump continues to insist on adding one more border barrier. But are walls the best way to protect a country?

Posted: Dec 25, 2018 9:12 AM
Updated: Dec 25, 2018 9:40 AM

President Trump has shut down the government over his failure to obtain funding for a wall across America's border with Mexico. He says it's about "border security," but the reality is far more disturbing.

Trump's wall is "deeply rooted in xenophobia," Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, explained Thursday on my SiriusXM radio show. Omar, who will make history as both the first Somali refugee and the first Muslim-American female to wear a hijab in Congress, added, "there are folks on the right, political pundits on TV shows talking about how immigrants make this country dirty and poor and more dangerous." (She was referring to recent inflammatory comments about immigrants by Fox News' Tucker Carlson.)

Omar is correct. Trump's wall is about an irrational fear of outsiders -- but it's about more than that, too. Trump's wall is designed to address a key concern of his base: the browning of America. Bluntly, Trump's wall, if built, will likely be the largest and most expensive monument ever constructed to try and ensure the demographic supremacy of white America.

True, a massive wall that climbs 32 feet in the air, as Trump has discussed, and spans thousands of miles could provide some degree of border security. But then again, so would stationing US troops -- in locked arms -- across the border, or building a massive "Game of Thrones"-type ice wall. The question is what is the most effective in achieving that goal -- especially since Trump wants us to pay for it after he failed to get Mexico to bear the cost, as he had previously promised.

This past week, Republican Rep. Will Hurd from Texas, a former CIA agent, slammed the "fallacy that a wall equals border security." He explained, "I have more border (in my district) than any other member of Congress, 820 miles," and added that we can use available technology to keep us far safer than a wall. Hurd closed with a key point: "Building a wall from sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security."

But Trump refuses to accept that technology suggested by people like Hurd and others will address the problem. Instead, Trump on Sunday took to Twitter to mock that very concept, writing, "Drones and all of the rest are wonderful and lots of fun," he wrote, but the "only way to stop drug, gangs, human trafficking, criminal elements" is by building a "good old fashioned Wall" -- or, perhaps, a "Steel Slat Barrier."

Hmm, whom to believe? A serial liar like Trump, or a former CIA operative who now represents a district along the Texas border?

For me, the choice is clear -- not only given Trump's track record, but because statistics also undermine his claims. First, despite what Trump wants you to believe, studies make it clear that immigrants, both undocumented and those legally here, are "considerably less likely to commit crime than native-born citizens." One study, conducted by the Cato Institute, found that "as a percentage of their respective populations, there were 56% fewer criminal convictions of illegal immigrants than of native-born Americans in Texas in 2015."

On top of that, illegal border crossings are currently at their lowest levels since 2000. And nearly two thirds of those now in the country illegally are here because they overstayed their visas after arriving via airports, while others even came over the northern border from Canada. A massive southern border wall obviously won't address this.

These facts are likely why polls consistently find a solid majority of Americans oppose building a wall, including 66% of independent voters, according to a recent CBS News poll. Even Texans oppose the wall. In a Quinnipiac poll, 61% were against it, while only 34% favored it.

But not Trump's base. A November poll found that nearly 80% of Republicans want the wall built.

Why this overwhelming support? It boils down to what actually motivates the base. Studies after the election found that many Trump supporters did not have "economic anxiety," as some in media had previously reported. Rather, they were concerned with a "loss of status," or more accurately, "white anxiety" over changing demographics. As one study at the University of Pennsylvania noted, Trump voters feared "a threat to their group's dominance in our country over all."

Trump's wall is a perfect symbolic panacea for those people fearful of demographic change. Sure, it may not actually work as hoped, but it will likely give them some comfort.

It's also likely Trump shares their concerns, given his reported comments that he doesn't want immigrants from Africa and Haiti, which he deemed "shithole" countries, and prefers people from Norway, a predominately white nation. With comments like those, it's no wonder that some white supremacists support this President.

Border security is a bipartisan issue -- Democrats and Republican both want it. So, if Trump truly wants to keep America safe, he would use technology that is both effective and cost efficient. But if his real fear is changing demographics and he wants to give phony reassurance to his base voters, then the only option is a "good old-fashioned Wall."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 331863

Reported Deaths: 7494
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22855279
Hinds22625437
Harrison19462326
Rankin14765286
Jackson14233251
Madison10658227
Lee10398178
Jones8713169
Forrest8164157
Lauderdale7528243
Lowndes6761150
Lamar665988
Lafayette6446124
Washington5497139
Bolivar4907134
Pearl River4889149
Oktibbeha476898
Panola4719112
Marshall4648106
Warren4612125
Pontotoc438873
Monroe4243137
Union424379
Neshoba4179180
Lincoln4088115
Hancock402788
Leflore3562125
Pike3511111
Tate348988
Alcorn343174
Sunflower342293
Adams331987
Yazoo330573
Scott330175
Simpson313690
Copiah311467
Itawamba309580
Coahoma308285
Tippah298368
Prentiss292563
Covington280183
Marion278980
Leake277975
Wayne269942
Grenada265688
George259851
Newton256064
Tishomingo235769
Winston235084
Jasper225748
Attala220373
Chickasaw215960
Stone209137
Holmes194974
Clay191554
Tallahatchie181542
Clarke181480
Calhoun177332
Smith175334
Yalobusha169240
Walthall140448
Lawrence137026
Greene134934
Amite131843
Noxubee131135
Perry130838
Montgomery130644
Carroll124531
Webster116732
Jefferson Davis112934
Tunica110827
Benton104425
Claiborne104231
Kemper100329
Humphreys99033
Franklin85923
Quitman83519
Choctaw80919
Wilkinson73232
Jefferson69028
Sharkey51518
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 565510

Reported Deaths: 11468
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson828061584
Mobile44938853
Madison36534532
Tuscaloosa26589465
Shelby26409255
Montgomery25598623
Baldwin23319324
Lee16691179
Calhoun15030332
Morgan14877288
Etowah14563368
Marshall12723235
Houston11302292
Elmore10576217
St. Clair10449251
Limestone10420158
Cullman10198204
Lauderdale9883253
DeKalb9226191
Talladega8705187
Walker7545286
Autauga7388113
Jackson7216117
Blount7147139
Colbert6522142
Coffee5962131
Dale5224117
Russell463942
Chilton4603117
Covington4502125
Franklin439781
Tallapoosa4343156
Escambia414782
Chambers3813124
Dallas3674163
Clarke361562
Marion3354106
Pike323179
Lawrence3176101
Winston289672
Bibb276165
Geneva267383
Marengo257367
Barbour241860
Pickens238862
Butler233571
Hale230578
Fayette223863
Henry203345
Cherokee192347
Randolph192244
Monroe190241
Washington174539
Macon167252
Crenshaw163457
Clay161859
Cleburne158445
Lamar149138
Lowndes143854
Wilcox128431
Bullock125342
Conecuh117730
Coosa115229
Perry109628
Sumter107532
Greene95935
Choctaw63125
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