At a press conference at Camp David over the weekend, a reporter asked Donald Trump if he's still working on having Mexico pay for a wall along the United States' southern border. "Yeah," the Republican replied, "I believe that Mexico will pay for the wall.... Mexico will pay. In some form, Mexico will pay for the wall."
In reality, however, the president and his team are moving forward with a very different approach. The New York Times reports today that Trump World intends to redirect funds -- which is to say, our money, not Mexico's -- away from effective border policies and toward construction of a wall.
The Trump administration would cut or delay funding for border surveillance, radar technology, patrol boats and customs agents in its upcoming spending plan to curb illegal immigration — all proven security measures that officials and experts have said are more effective than building a wall along the Mexican border.President Trump has made the border wall a focus of his campaign against illegal immigration to stop drugs, terrorists and gangs like MS-13 from coming into the United States. Under spending plans submitted last week to Congress, the wall would cost $18 billion over the next 10 years, and be erected along nearly 900 miles of the southern border.
The article quoted Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), a former CIA officer and generally a White House ally, saying, "People that are dealing with this issue know that a third-century solution to a 21st-century problem is not going to fix this long-term."
It's the president, however, who doesn't seem to understand this basic detail. Given a choice between investing in policies that have proven effective in improving border security and throwing money at a symbol of far-right politics, Trump prefers the latter -- even if that means taking money away from effective policies.
What's especially annoying about this is that the president seems unwilling to familiarize himself with the basics of the debate he claims to care so much about. Trump says a wall is necessary to block drugs from entering the United States, which doesn't make sense. He also says a wall will stop illegal immigration, which is also hard to take seriously, since most undocumented immigrants in the United States are here on over-extended visas.
And yet, in classic post-policy fashion, Team Trump has adopted a posture of indifference toward the evidence that shows its approach won't work. From the Times' article:
[Trump's budget request for a wall] either eliminates critical funding for border security programs or shifts money from them, threatening to leave gaping holes. [...]The cuts include money for a remote video surveillance system in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, an area known for high numbers of border crossings and drug smuggling. The system is composed of infrared cameras mounted on poles, towers and buildings, allowing Border Patrol agents to track attempted smuggling and border crossings.In the internal document, the White House budget office called the surveillance system important but said its funding requests were lowered "to offset the costs of presidential priorities not funded in the D.H.S. request."
Priorities such as Trump's beloved wall idea -- which costs more and does less.