Las Vegas Sun

August 23, 2017

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EDITORIAL:

Trump’s ‘big, beautiful’ border wall a colossal waste of time, money

Donald Trump’s “big, beautiful” border wall is, in reality, a nightmare in the making. And it’s getting more dreadful all the time.

Not only would the wall cost an estimated $21 billion to $25 billion, it would do little if anything by itself to stop immigrants from entering the U.S. Topographical constraints mean the wall can feasibly only be built along roughly half of the border, so there will be massive gaps. And since walls can be scaled, tunneled under, flown over and broken through, it won’t shut off the flow of immigrants, drugs or other contraband even in the stretches where it might be built.

Walls alone don’t keep people in or out. If they did, guards wouldn’t be needed in prisons.

A more effective plan would be to beef up staffing and invest more in technology that is already in use, such as cameras and other electronic surveillance equipment, drones and other aircraft, and ground sensors.

With Congress facing budget issues and a mid-October deadline to increase the debt limit, a showdown may be coming on funding for the wall.

Clearly, as shown in leaked transcripts of Trump’s January call with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Trump realizes Mexico isn’t going to pay for the wall. The call suggests that Trump cynically realizes that the “plan” he was selling on the campaign trail — that he could “easily” build a wall and make Mexico eat the costs — was just red meat for his followers.

“You cannot say anymore that the United States is going to pay for the wall,” Trump told Peña Nieto. “I am just going to say that we are working it out. Believe it or not, this is the least important thing that we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important (thing to) talk about.”

So with Trump’s Big Lie falling apart, it’s likely he’ll lean on Congress for funding. With Trump’s approval ratings in tatters and GOP congressional leaders increasingly less worried about facing backlash should they oppose him, there’s hope that pragmatism will prevail and the wall will be stalled or killed.

Then again, Trump may make it a non-negotiable item, which potentially could have a disastrous consequence — gridlock between Trump and moderates, and a government shutdown.

What a catastrophe that would be, and all for a project that is all about politics and nothing about practicality.

That’s not to say that the U.S. shouldn’t strive to keep criminal aliens out of the country or deport illegal immigrants who not living here peacefully and helping strengthen our communities.

But spending billions to fulfill a crass political promise isn’t the way to go about it.

Worse yet, the Trump administration recently announced it would waive environmental laws and regulations that threatened to impede the first phase of the wall’s construction. That’s right, the president signaled that he was willing to destroy the fragile Southwest desert environment and subject the well-being of construction workers and nearby residents to health risks to build the wall.

“The Trump administration thinks that big, expensive border walls will make us safer,” Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., said in a statement. “What it doesn’t understand is that ignoring vital environmental protections will jeopardize the health of workers, communities and ecosystems. The National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Solid Waste Disposal Act, among dozens of others targeted by these waivers, are the first line of defense to protect our planet.”

All true.

So with Trump threatening to run roughshod over the environment and put people’s health at risk in hopes of bringing this historically stupid idea to fruition, it’s critical for congressional leaders to oppose him.