‘A $10-Million Scarecrow’: The Quest for the Perfect ‘Smart Wall’

“There was a time when Mexican vendors sold water jugs with a map glued to the side. The map displayed various mountain peaks, and migrants were directed to follow the promontories to highways where they would be picked up. Towers made that impossible. A 10-mile journey became a 20-mile march, and migrants increasingly relied on smugglers to guide them through arroyos, along mountainsides, weaving a path beyond sight of the towers. This is what Boyce and Chambers have termed CBP’s “corral apparatus,” an intentional strategy to funnel migrants into “a narrower corridor of movement” where they’re more likely to become isolated, confused, and where “physiological strain, suffering and mortality are likely to be greatest.” The very point of the surveillance tower placement, they contend, was to increase the difficulty of the journey.
“An initial strategy was to channel people into certain areas, to funnel them to a place where it’s easier to apprehend them,” James Lewis, who had advised on SBInet, told me. “That’s not good from a crosser perspective because they’re forced into more inhospitable areas, and the casualty rate goes up.”

This corralling has an official name, it’s called “prevention through deterrence.” The Clinton administration devised this strategy and CBP still practices it today — consciously or not. During the program’s first stages, in the mid-1990s, the U.S. raised walls near border cities with the intent to push migrants into the desert. Metrics like “a shift in flow” of migratory routes and “fee increase by smugglers” were signs of effectiveness. And deaths were an expected outcome. “Illegal entrants crossing through remote, uninhabited expanses of land and sea along the border,” the policy said, will “find themselves in mortal danger.” The government likely figured this would be an added deterrent, as stories of dead fathers and siblings filtered back through migrant networks. That is not what happened. Instead, as people left broken economies and rampant violence for the U.S., the death toll along the border soared and still the migrants came.”

The Texas GOP’s border wall fantasy

“It’s also not clear whether Abbott can use disaster funds to pay for the wall under Texas state law. He declared a disaster for 34 counties in the state last month due to a recent increase in unauthorized immigration at the border, freeing up resources to deal with the problem and allowing him to suspend state laws and regulations that would impede any solutions.”

“the current levels of unauthorized immigration might not truly constitute a “disaster.” While officials reported that the number of migrant apprehensions at the border in May was nearly eight times the total in the same month last year, that doesn’t necessarily mean the actual number of migrants trying to cross the border is higher.
Those numbers don’t account for the fact that there has been a surge in adults who have been caught trying to cross the border multiple times due to policies enacted during the pandemic. In 2020, 26 percent of migrants apprehended by Border Patrol had been caught more than once, compared to 7 percent the previous year.”

““A governor should not be able to circumvent the legislative process by declaring such matters to be emergencies and then implementing whatever measures he wishes,” state Rep. John Turner (D-Dallas), told the Texas Tribune. “If a governor can commence such a long-term, multi-hundred-million-dollar public works project under the cover of emergency powers, it is difficult to know what the limits of those powers are.””

“Abbott’s plans to arrest migrants at the border on various criminal charges, including trespassing and vandalism, would also likely face legal challenges if implemented.

Abbott has threatened to put such migrants “in jail for a long time,” but legal precedent isn’t on his side: The Supreme Court prevented Arizona Republicans in 2012 from similarly arresting migrants on trespassing charges, on the basis that states cannot enforce immigration law. It’s possible, however, that the 2012 ruling could be overturned with several new Trump-appointed justices on the Court.”

“Abbott and the Texas GOP’s embrace of a border wall seems to be part of their strategy for the 2022 midterm elections. Abbott is also up for reelection in 2022, but some have also suggested he could be setting up a run for president in 2024.

The Texas Republicans appear to be trying to appeal to their right-wing base in order to fend off potential primary challengers. There isn’t much concern about Democrats launching a serious offense in the general given that the party’s promises of Texas turning blue didn’t come to fruition in 2020.

Republicans in the state have also recently passed legislation aiming to fire up their base that removed the requirement of a permit to carry a handgun and established an effective ban on abortion. And Abbott’s agenda for an upcoming special session of the state legislature involves more items related to border security, restrictions on voting, and preventing the teaching of critical race theory in schools.”

“while there has been pushback from border counties and Democratic officials, the majority of Republican voters in Texas do support building the wall: about 74 percent, according to a recent survey by the Dallas Morning News and UT Tyler.”

Greg Abbott’s Border Wall Plan Is Doomed To Fail

“Abbott has so far provided little information about how he will finance the project, which will undoubtedly carry a hefty price tag. In Texas, one section of Trump’s border wall came out to be $27 million a mile. Abbott intends to provide $250 million in state revenues as a “down payment.” Those funds will come from a disaster account, a transfer made possible because he issued a disaster declaration in order to take a number of executive actions against migration. Abbott also expects that crowdfunding will help supplement state funds. So far, that effort has collected roughly $450,000.

David Donatti, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas who specializes in border issues, has concerns about Abbott’s financial approach.

“He has declared a disaster, and by that authority, he’s moving $250 million into an account that allows him to” build a border wall, says Donatti. “For a state like Texas,” $250 million “is a lot of money…that could be used for hurricane recovery, toward recovery from something like the freeze that we experienced.” Donatti calls it “an absurd abuse of power if nothing else,” even though the result of that abuse would provide “an ineffective solution to people coming to the United States.”

According to the governor, construction would also hinge on voluntary land concessions from borderlands residents. In Texas, most land along the border with Mexico is privately owned. That gives Abbott two options: either entice landowners to donate their property or seize it from the unwilling. To build his wall, Trump chose to initiate land grabs in the borderlands through eminent domain, which is a legal doctrine that allows the government to seize private property for public use. Affected landowners nominally must receive just compensation, though practically the process is rife with abuse.”

“Regardless of the wall’s future, Abbott is already implementing policies beyond a physical barrier to keep migrants out. As Reason’s Billy Binion reported, Abbott “has directed the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDJC) to clear out the Dolph Biscoe Unit, a state prison in Dilley, Texas, so that law enforcement can arrest and detain some undocumented migrants there.” He’s made it so that migrants are subject to “aggravated trespassing” charges, a misdemeanor, giving the state the authority to arrest migrants who are otherwise governed by federal immigration frameworks. As Donatti points out, that “quite clearly tramples on the federal government’s prerogative to immigration control.” Abbott has also revoked licenses for child care services found to be looking after undocumented migrant kids, which might lead to those minors being shuttled into inadequate emergency detention facilities.”

The Supreme Court just handed Trump a big victory regarding his border wall

“The case first reached the Court in late July 2019, after a lower federal court blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to transfer $2.5 billion that Congress appropriated for military pay, training, and similar personnel-related matters to wall construction. The administration claims it was allowed to do under a statute permitting the Secretary of Defense to transfer military funds “for higher priority items, based on unforeseen military requirements.”

But, as several lower court judges have pointed out, there’s nothing “unforeseen” about the circumstances that led Trump to build this wall. Trump’s campaigned on plans to build a border wall since 2015. In late 2018 and early 2019, Trump even shut down much of the federal government due to a disagreement over how much money should be appropriated to pay for the wall.

So Congress did not deny Trump much of the funding he sought because it failed to foresee an emergent problem that could only be solved by a border wall. It was well aware of Trump’s case for additional funding for his wall, and it rejected that case.”

Trump Will Raid Pentagon’s War on Terror Slush Fund To Build His Border Wall

“As part of an overall plan to divert $3.8 billion from the Pentagon to pay for the construction of a wall on the border with Mexico, President Donald Trump is planning to drain about $1.6 billion from the slush fund that pays for much of America’s post-9/11 wars in the Middle East.

Foreign Policy’s Lara Seligman reports that the White House sent a memo to Congress on Thursday outlining plans to redirect military spending for the border wall. The administration plans to move $2.2 billion originally earmarked for purchasing vehicles, ships, and aircraft into an anti-drug trafficking program that has already been tapped to provide for wall construction costs. The other $1.6 billion in border wall funding will come from the budget used to pay for America’s foreign wars”

The Wall Isn’t Working

“about 130 feet of newly constructed border wall “fell on the Mexico side of the border, landing on several trees.” Evidently, the sections had not yet been set in a concrete foundation.”

“other sections of the border wall have huge holes, by design, to prevent flash floods from damaging it. Sources familiar with the wall designs tell the Post that the structure will act like a giant sewer gate during those periodic downpours, allowing water to pass through but causing rocks, trees, and other debris carried by the water to slam into it. To avoid potential damage, there 30-foot floodgates will be built into the wall, and the floodgates will be left open for months at a time during the rainy season.

John Ladd, a cattle rancher who has one such floodgate on his property—built into an older section of border wall constructed in 2008—tells the Post that he’s seen smugglers drive pick-up trucks through the openings.”

“Smugglers have already been spotted cutting holes in new sections of the wall, and there’s a long history of people gaining access to the United States by tunneling or catapulting their way in. More than 200 such tunnels discovered since 1990, and another one was found just this week near San Diego, California.”

“Most illegal immigrants to the United States don’t hop the border; they land at airports and then overstay their visas.”