Trump's bogus border wall

trump border wall explainer animation orig nws_00003622
trump border wall explainer animation orig nws_00003622

    JUST WATCHED

    What it would take to build Trump's border wall

MUST WATCH

What it would take to build Trump's border wall 02:34

Story highlights

  • Juliette Kayyem: Trump executive order on border wall is little more than tactical symbolism on a campaign promise
  • Kayyem: More dire is his apparent intent to end Syrian refugee program, rendering America anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant

CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem is the author of the best-selling "Security Mom: An Unclassified Guide to Protecting Our Homeland and Your Home." She is a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School, a former assistant secretary of Homeland Security in the Obama administration and founder of Kayyem Solutions, a security consulting firm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.

(CNN)Donald Trump built his campaign on the promise of building a great southern border wall and getting Mexico to pay for it. But the executive order he announced Wednesday, while it may nod in the direction of that pledge, is not a change in policy, nor is it even an instrument that could compel Mexico to foot the bill. What it is, actually, is proof that the promise of a wall has always been a house of cards.

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).
Trump: Mexico to reimburse US for wall
Trump: Mexico to reimburse US for wall

    JUST WATCHED

    Trump: Mexico to reimburse US for wall

MUST WATCH

Trump: Mexico to reimburse US for wall 02:54
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.
Former Mexico FM: Pena Nieto must cancel US trip
Former Mexico FM: Pena Nieto must cancel US trip

    JUST WATCHED

    Former Mexico FM: Pena Nieto must cancel US trip

MUST WATCH

Former Mexico FM: Pena Nieto must cancel US trip 06:26
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 that 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.
WH: Mexico to pay for wall one way or another
WH: Mexico to pay for wall one way or another

    JUST WATCHED

    WH: Mexico to pay for wall one way or another

MUST WATCH

WH: Mexico to pay for wall one way or another 01:25
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.