It was in September 2019 when Donald Trump traveled to southern California and made an important boast about his border wall. Encouraging television cameras to get an up-close picture of the slats, the then-president said the barrier along the U.S./Mexico border was “virtually impenetrable.”
As we’ve discussed, it wasn’t long before the Republican’s claim was discredited. In 2020, for example, winds pushed over newly installed wall panels in California. (CNN reported at the time that there were wind gusts in the area “as high as 37 mph” — not exactly hurricane-like conditions.) A year later, flooding reportedly ripped off gate hinges from part of the wall in Arizona.
But perhaps most important was evidence that smugglers repeatedly sawed through the barriers with commercially available, off-the-shelf power tools that cost as little as $100. The Washington Post advanced this story in striking ways yesterday.
Mexican smuggling gangs have sawed through new segments of border wall 3,272 times over the past three years, according to unpublished U.S. Customs and Border Protection maintenance records obtained by The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act.
To be sure, we learned in 2019 that this was happening. What we didn’t know was how frequently this was happening. We’re not talking about a handful of instances in which a few criminals used power tools; the Customs and Border Protection evidence points to literally thousands of such incidents during the 2019 to 2021 fiscal years.
The Post added that after smugglers breached the wall with inexpensive power tools, they created gaps “wide enough for people and narcotics to pass through.” The article went on to note, “After smuggling crews cut through, they often disguise the breaches with tinted putty, making it difficult for agents to recognize which bollards have been compromised. The smugglers can return again and again to the site until the damage is detected, using the breach like a secret entrance.”
Stepping back, the resulting image is an embarrassing fiasco. As a candidate, Trump vowed to create an impressive wall, stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, which our neighbors to the south would pay for. As a president, Trump raided the Pentagon budget, using U.S. taxpayer dollars to build an “impenetrable” wall that proved to be easily penetrated.
Common sense suggests the former president and his allies would stop talking about this debacle, if only to save themselves the humiliation.
And yet, it’s not quite working out that way.
Republican Sen. Rick Scott, for example, recently unveiled a 2022 policy blueprint that not only endorses reinvesting in the failed project, the Floridian also wants the endeavor to be named after Trump.
This week, during President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address, two right-wing lawmakers — Colorado’s Lauren Boebert and Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene — tried to get a “Build the wall!” chant going. (It fizzled when no one else joined in.)
Many Republicans may prefer to pretend that the wall is a success, but reality keeps getting in the way.