USA TODAY US Edition
Donald Trump calls for ‘Great Wall,’ but even China’s couldn’t secure border Heidi M Przybyla
Donald Trump is vowing to build a wall along the U.S. Southern border with Mexico, likening it to the Great Wall of China and even dubbing his proposed border barrier “The Great Wall of Trump.”
It’s a key part of a tough-onimmigration stance that has powered him to front-runner status in Republican polls and will likely be touted again by the billionaire real estate developer at Wednesday’s debate.
Yet, just as the Ming Dynasty’s 13,000-mile wall failed to keep out the Manchurians, Trump’s barricade would likely be an ineffective way of addressing the nation’s immigration challenges, border experts say.
“The consensus is, it didn’t work very well,” said Edward Alden, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, of the wall that dates back to the 14th century, which the Manchurians repeatedly broke through.
Even the most ardent critics of U.S. immigration policy are not clamoring for a wall. The emphasis, they say, should be on cracking down on those who overstay their visas and the companies that employ them.
“We almost never talk about the wall, rarely talk about the border actually,” said Roy Beck, president of Numbers USA, which advocates for less immigration.
The policy disconnect between the experts and Trump over the wall highlights a weakness his GOP rivals hope will eventually undermine his candidacy.
Part of the appeal of the Great Wall of Trump is that it’s an easy solution to a complex problem that plays to American economic angst, according to immigration experts.
“Just to say ‘build a big wall,’ that to me is a statement, it’s not a proposal,” said Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles. “It’s very simplistic, and he’s just saying it to satisfy a sector of the conservative base.” Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks did not respond to requests for comment.
Border fencing, with razor wire and cameras, already exists along portions of the U.S. border, such as in heavily populated areas like the San Diego suburbs near Ti- juana, and it is credited by the Department of Homeland Security as having brought down illegal crossings significantly.
It does not stop migrants from scaling or digging beneath it, but rather it slows them down long enough to allow U.S. border personnel to act, according to Marc Rosenblum, deputy director at the Migration Policy Institute. There are many other vast areas where few attempt to cross, Iraqi War-era drones are already on patrol, and fencing is expensive.
The U.S. Border Patrol estimates that it already either catches or turns back nearly 90% of those it observes trying to cross the border.
Still, Trump is tapping into anger fueled by images of immigrants piling up at the border, said Rosenblum. Trump is also pushing the rest of the Republican field to the right on immigration. A number have even repeated his call for revoking birthright citizenship for babies born to undocumented immigrants.