Building a ‘big, beautiful wall’ with Chinese money?

Building a ‘big, beautiful wall’ with Chinese money?
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There are eight of them, sticking out of the ground like religious monoliths, facing Mexico and surrounded by barbed wire, blocked roads and dozens upon dozens of San Diego police and county sheriff’s deputies. They are the eight prototypes of the “beautiful wall” on the Mexican border that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTom Arnold claims to have unreleased 'tapes' of Trump Cohen distances himself from Tom Arnold, says they did not discuss Trump US military indefinitely suspends two training exercises with South Korea MORE has promised since 2015.

They are less than 100 feet from the border and Mexico's world-famous city of Tijuana, which once was plagued by American adventurers who tried to seize it while Mexicans were otherwise occupied slaughtering each other a century ago.

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The eight Trump “monuments” are guarded by a battalion of San Diego law enforcement officers that, so far, has cost San Diego city taxpayers almost $300,000. An equal amount from the county, plus money spent by the California Highway Patrol and CalTrans, the state highway system, suggests California taxpayers can expect to pay a total cost of $1 million. No federal financial help or reimbursement is anticipated to guard Trump’s “monuments.”  

 

All that money has been spent to protect the “monuments” from demonstrators that the Trump administration expected to swarm the site. No demonstrators have bothered to show up. The site is shared between the City of San Diego and San Diego County on Otay Mesa, where the United States and Mexico have built airports, industry and a massive customs border crossing that handles thousands of 18-wheeler trucks every week bringing industrial products and produce into the United States at a rate of one truck every 30 seconds.

The eight prototypes were built to allow the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to evaluate effectiveness and durability. Interestingly, the “big, beautiful wall” that President Trump promised during his campaign rallies has shrunk from 2,000 miles to about 300 miles, in addition to refurbishing some of the 650 miles of fencing built since the 1990s.

Trump chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE announced there would be no wall “from sea to shining sea” when he was DHS secretary; Trump reluctantly agrees there will be no wall for the entire border.

But, he insists, there will be a wall and “Mexico will pay (for it). In some form, Mexico will pay for it,” he said on Jan. 6.

Mexico says it will not pay for the wall. That doesn’t really matter, because Trump is asking Congress for $18 billion to construct 300 to 400 miles of new fencing and some wall. We should remember that candidate Trump stated many times that his “big, beautiful wall” would only cost $4 billion. Estimates range as high as $70 billion.

The $4 billion estimate came from a man who states, “I went to the best colleges for college; I was a very excellent student.” He went to Fordham and the University of Pennsylvania, where he reportedly was a “C” student.

Candidate Trump would have been well-served to look at a map before he made such a silly proposition. Obviously, DHS Secretary Kelly knew the border, having served as commander of all U.S. Armed Forces and military police south of the Rio Grande River. That is why he said no wall “from sea to shining sea” — he knows such a project is physically impossible to build.

But even looking at a map doesn’t help much, sometimes. Studies indicate that 10 percent of the American population can’t find the Pacific Ocean on a map or that, in a study a few years ago, 50 percent of American high school students couldn’t find Mexico or Canada on an unmarked map. In 1992, only 5 percent of geography students at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University could find Kuwait on an unmarked map, even as 500,000 American soldiers were massing to make war there and in Iraq, another country these students couldn’t find on a map.

Now, the problem isn’t finding the border on a map. It’s finding $18 billion to borrow from China, or Russian money from Deutsche Bank, to build a fence/wall that few think will work to keep illegal border-crossers from crossing the border.

And then there are hundreds of potential lawsuits, construction delays, union problems, environmental problems, escalating construction costs — and enough Democratic U.S. senators to vote against spending even 10 cents on any wall — to either stop the project or shut down the U.S. government.

Will the wall ever get built? Who knows? But since Trump is not “president for life,” it increasingly seems to be a doubtful proposition.

Raoul Contreras is the author of "The Mexican Border: Immigration, War and a Trillion Dollars in Trade" (Floricanto Press 2016) and "The Armenian Lobby & U.S. Foreign Policy" (Berkeley Press 2017). He formerly wrote for the New American News Service of the New York Times.