NEW YORK – President Trump wants a wall. It’s highly unlikely he will back down from his demand. For a proud man who touts ‘winning’ as mantra for success and trying to fulfill a stout campaign promise, giving up would be tantamount to loss of face. The Democrats are adamant and resolute too; confident the standoff is inflicting political damage, to Trump and the Republicans. So, they will not cede to the demand for that $5.7 billion to build new steel barriers along 234 miles of the southern border.
Where’s this impasse heading to?
It’s hard to say.
It’s not as easy as checking the meteorological report for chance of snow. But one thing’s clear. Now almost a month into the shutdown, America is up against the wall. It’s not just the 800,000 federal workers who are in trepidation and misery, fighting to stay afloat from a deluge of unpaid bills. The ripple effect is slowly eroding the economy’s growth, threatening a contraction. Dire predictions have recession zooming in.
CNN put it down succinctly: ‘President Donald Trump’s only way out may involve a choice between two pillars of his political viability — his border wall and his purring economy.’
JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon on Wednesday termed the shutdown a “self-inflicted wound” and “negative” for the economy.
The ‘wall’ Trump is demanding, for all its symbolism and core promise to voters, would unlikely deter illegal immigrants, drug smugglers and human traffickers from crossing over into America.
Axios reported that of the 2,000 miles on the southern border, there’s fencing along 690 miles. That still leaves more than half of the border uncovered, and there are gaps and dilapidated fencing in the barriers that are in place.
So, even if those 234 miles were to come up with the $5.7 billion asked for, it would leave more than 1,000 miles of acreage fenceless. One could stand on two countries with two feet, at least in some places.
Trump wants 104 miles of his wall in the Rio Grande Valley, according to Vox. Followed by a 27-mile stretch in Yuma, Arizona; 14 miles in El Centro, California; and 55 miles in Laredo, Texas.
Only 403 miles of existing fencing on the southern border is intended to keep out pedestrians, while the rest just keeps out vehicles, according to a study by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an immigration group that advocates for lowering immigration levels. For 36 miles, there is a second tier of pedestrian fencing. And for 14 miles, there are three layers of fencing.
If it were to just keep deer and other four-legged animals out, then building a steel fortified wall along 234 miles would be all that would be required for countless years, unless a natural calamity or man-made disaster brought it crashing down. But this wall’s meant to keep out devious and calculating humans, who could scale it, burrow underneath it. That means the wall would need maintenance, patrolling by border agents, gadgets in place to monitor activity.
Senate Democrats said in a report, released in April, 2017, a full border wall along the southern border could cost nearly $70 billion to build and $150 million a year to maintain, reported The New York Times. An internal report by the Department of Homeland Security said the wall could cost about $21.6 billion, not including maintenance.
But the punch in the gut for many Americans, at least for Democrats and others averse to Trump’s ideas, is the opinion of experts that the wall Trump wants is useless, waste of money and resources.
Wall expert Élisabeth Vallet, of the Université du Québec à Montréal, told the Montreal Gazette, ‘what we’re doing with border walls is putting a band aid on a broken leg. You’re showing that you’re doing something but you’re actually not solving the problem.’
Trump, however, may have noted with satisfaction that his base of supporters is not overtly bothered by the shutdown.
A Pew Research poll found that 79% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents see the shutdown as a “very serious” problem for the country, but just 35% of Republicans and Republican leaners feel the same way, reported CNN.
And emphasizing why neither party thinks it’s in a political position that could prompt a compromise, 82% of Republicans and Republican leaners back a substantial expansion of the border wall, noted the report. Only 6% of Democrats agree.
The Washington Post reported that Trump changed the minds of 2 percent of voters with his nationally televised address last week on the border wall, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. A full 89 percent of voters, on the other hand, say the address didn’t change their minds.
The wall, however, is slowly transmogrifying into a monster that can hurt Americans more than from those they are tried to bar from entering the country. The financial and economic implications are alarming.
Rex Huppke, writing in the Chicago Tribune, had this to say of the 800,000 federal workers missing paychecks: “…They are pawns in this mess, by no choice of their own. They don’t deserve to be infected by a national outbreak of stupidity”, and elsewhere in his column, noted of the wall: “…symbol of white American intolerance, a giant middle finger in the Southwest flipping off the Statue of Liberty in the Northeast.”
So, who’s going to cave in first on this wall?
(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)