2017-01-20 Fri

Clear Thinking and the The Mexican Wall

I was drawn into (OK, OK, “I waded into a verbal fight”) last week about Trump and his stated goal of building a wall to keep foreigners out.

I hold British, Australian and Canadian passports, so I easily slip into the definition of “a foreigner” from the viewpoint of the U.S.A. If the Big Bang had gone just a teensy bit differently almost fourteen billion years ago, I could have been Mexican, I suppose.

“Building a wall won’t keep out the Mexicans” it was said. I agreed. Oh, it will keep out a few, the aged, inform, solitary and so on, but a wall of wood, brick or steel won’t keep out those who are organized.

It doesn’t have to.

A physical wall only has to slow them down.

Imagine that a helicopter flies patrol along the border from east to west every, say, thirty minutes. Imagine that a helicopter flies patrol along the border from west to east every thirty minutes. Imagine too that you are in a truck approaching the border from the south.

You park the truck (with its thirty aspirants) south of the border, and scan the skies. You note the point on the border where the helicopters cross in their patrol, you time the interval (thirty minutes), and twelve minutes after their crossing paths, you floor the accelerator and speed across the border, and you don’t stop for another hour.

Phew! Made it! And they never saw us.

Now imagine that there is a wall of wood, brick or steel, some, say, thirty feet high.

The helicopters are gone, but once you reach the wall everyone (except you) has to climb over the wall. You have a ladder, but it will take forty minutes for the thirty aspirants to climb over the wall (Is there a ladder on the other side? Do they jump? Do they sprain their ankles? Is the other truck waiting on the other side?

During that forty minutes, guess what! The helicopters return on their regular thirty-minute patrol, and they catch the aspirants.

The wall doesn’t have to stop you. It just has to slow you down.

After 9/11 my Canadian Landed Immigrant status counted for very little at the Lewiston border crossing near Niagara Falls. ON each trip I (and all other occupants of the car) was dragged across to immigration for between forty-five minutes and an hour. I was finger-printed (each time!), questioned, made to sit and wait, as was/were my fellow passengers.I often wondered whether a bus load of people would have been made to wait while I was checked, or whether they would have gone on ahead without me.

In desperation, I applied for Canadian Citizenship and a Canadian Passport just to make it easier for me to get out of Canada!

Each time I crossed, I was delayed for an hour.

A wall of immigration officers is as effective as a wall of wood, brick or steel. It slowed me down long enough for them to check my records.

I imagine that every time they checked, five or six times a year for seven years, they found that I was the same person, lived at the same address, had the same phone number, the same job and so on.

The Mexican wall only has to slow people down. It doesn’t need to stop them.

Trade officials of course have the same concern with borders. Just-in-Time suppliers do not want a delay of indeterminate length at any border.

I bet that trade trumps the president!