The more noteworthy, and potentially more dangerous move from Trump, relates to the disconcerting, anti-Muslim inclinations evident in another executive order he is expected to issue. The Department of Homeland Security is vetting executive orders
that would end America's Syrian refugee program and suspend Muslim majority-country visas. Trump is reportedly considering
whether ending the entire refugee program is doable and whether a subsequent revamp could favor religious minorities (mainly Christians in Muslim countries).
For now, let's talk about Wednesday's executive order on the wall, and let's begin with some reality. There already is a wall -
- 700 miles of it -- along the roughly 1,900-mile US-Mexico border. This fact gets lost in media coverage, and was ignored by Hillary Clinton and other Democrats during the campaign. But it's there. And where the wall leaves off, drones, surveillance technology, or Border Control facilities and Border Control agents pick up.
Any promise to build more wall will fail mostly because of geography. You cannot build a wall on the Rio Grande, for example. And in other border areas vast mountain ranges make an ocean-to-gulf wall simply impossible, if not ridiculous, to build. As former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told me
in an interview for my podcast last spring, "It makes no sense to build a 10 foot wall on top of a 10,000 foot mountain."
There are also political challenges to building a wall that have nothing to do with Mexico or geography.
In Texas, a red state, a lot of folks are not too keen on building a new wall
, and the same is true in New Mexico.
In Arizona, most of the Mexico border already has a wall
. Many in these southern border states who oppose further extending the wall believe it would inhibit commercial and agricultural activity.
In some areas, America's longstanding deference to tribal lands
would prohibit such a barrier.
Even Trump's own secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, John Kelly, knows that border security is more complicated than miles of bricks and fencing. At his confirmation hearing, Kelly acknowledged t
hat even a complete wall from the Pacific to the Gulf would still need additional layered defenses to be effective, "I believe the defense of the southwest border really starts about 1,500 miles south, and partnering with [other countries]."
Apparently recognizing this, Trump's executive order does not specify
how or where these new sections of the wall would be built. Trump's wall order is merely a concession to his supporters and, of course, carries no force in compelling Mexico to pay for construction. As yet, Wednesday's order has few facts, no dates and no details.
In other words, a big nothing, little more than tactical symbolism on a cornerstone campaign promise. Operationally? Empty. Rather, what the occasion reveals is the inadequacy of such a barrier in securing our southern border — and the rest of our nation.
What it also reveals is Trump's consistent adherence to his unfortunate campaign platform: America as unwelcoming: anti-Muslim, anti-refugee, anti-immigrant.
Smoke-and-mirror proposals will do little to stem a terror threat (terrorists with French passports, for example, will make it through easily) but do much to heighten antagonism toward our country. Trump should be called out for already violating his major campaign promise, that Mexico will pay for the wall.
These feints at strengthening our borders in reality only weaken our unity.