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Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump tours a section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall in Alamo, Texas, on Jan. 12, 2021.Alex Brandon / AP file

Trump's 'wall' inadvertently makes things easier for smugglers

Trump's border wall not only failed to make things better, in some ways, the multi-billion-dollar boondoggle made matters quite a bit worse.


The border separating the United States and Mexico is nearly 2,000 miles long. By the time Donald Trump was sworn in as president four years ago, there were 654 miles of physical barriers along the border, and the Republican intended to vastly add to that total -- at Mexico's expense.

We now know, of course, that he failed. Mexico did not finance the pointless, multi-billion-dollar boondoggle, and over the course of four years, the GOP administration managed to add about 47 miles of barriers where none previously existed. It was among the former president's most glaring failures, even as he pretended it was a great triumph.

But while Trump's term ended, the fiasco did not. The New York Times reported in December, for example, that whistleblowers have accused wall contractors of "smuggling armed Mexican security teams into the United States to guard construction sites, even building an illegal dirt road to speed the operation."

New York magazine reported soon after the Biden administration was inheriting a larger mess "involving expensive outstanding contracts, hundreds of miles of unfinished construction, and frustrated parties all along the border." Going to the trouble of taking down barriers would cost taxpayers billions, but contract cancellations aren't free.

It's against this backdrop that the New York Times reported today on some of the unfortunate, real-world consequences of Trump's ridiculous initiative.

In some areas, colossal piles of unused steel bollards linger at deserted work sites, next to idled bulldozers and water-hauling trucks. In Arizona, ranchers are complaining that rough roads carved by work crews into hillsides near uncompleted segments of wall now serve as easy access points for smugglers and others seeking to enter the once-remote areas along the border.

The article added that there's some anecdotal evidence of crime getting worse, not better, in U.S. border communities as a result of these new roads.

As for whether the existing, newly built barriers -- which Trump once described as "virtually impenetrable" -- are having the intended effect, let's also not forget that smugglers have repeatedly sawed through Trump's wall with commercially available, off-the-shelf power tools that cost as little as $100.

On President Biden's first day in office, he halted construction, announcing a 60-day review process in which officials would presumably decide what to do next. That deadline is Sunday, and I don't envy those trying to figure out how to clean up this mess.