Borderline Crazy

Mort Rosenblum / Reader Supported News
Borderline Crazy Shipping containers line the U.S.-Mexico border at the Coronado National Memorial in Cochise County, Arizona, on Saturday. (photo: Rebecca Noble/Getty)

Doug Ducey’s last erection as governor was a three-mile makeshift barricade of shipping containers, a fitting monument to himself and the elephants he rode in on: an illegal, idiotic, destructive, short-lived, transparent con job to exploit gullible voters.

It typifies irreparable damage caused by Donald Trump’s futile attempts to build his Wall on a border already fenced off or protected by mountainous terrain. Even if completed, it would have been no more effective against human tides than sandbags piled up against rising seas.

Governor-elect Katie Hobbs was blunt: “It’s not our land to put things on. It’s a political stunt.” Plus, she added, “I think it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars.” And how.

By the time trucks chew up yet more desert to haul it away, it will have cost well over $100 million, or 2,500 “TGTs,” the Mort Report parallel currency based on third grade teachers’ annual pay. That would cover Arizona’s classroom shortfall and allow for long overdue raises.

Had the stacked containers remained in place, their only practical purpose would have been as staging modules for smugglers. Holes cut into them on the Mexican side with camouflaged exits on the other would help them traffic migrants, drugs and perhaps a few terrorists.

The border problem, growing for decades, is part of a global phenomenon that worsens dramatically by the year. It requires dispassionate bipartisan congressional study of America’s own needs and its commitment to international accords it shaped after World War II.

But immigration is a perfect issue for conniving Republicans who spark fear and loathing among an electorate largely ignorant about its complexities. Ducey, term-limited, is after Krysten Sinema’s Senate seat, if not the vice presidency, in 2024. His parting shot at Joe Biden backfired.

First, he stacked 9-foot-high containers, laughably ineffective, near Yuma to the west. When the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation asked him to remove them, he tweeted: “The Border Barrier is working. Arizona is protecting its citizens. Why the federal government won’t is beyond belief.”

Then he built a much longer one here in the remote wilds on national forest land far to the east. He remained defiant when federal authorities sued but backed down after local activists demonstrated. The same trucks will remove the containers, leaving uprooted mesquite trees, blocked streambeds, toppled stately cactuses and bulldozed gashes in fragile Sonoran Desert.

The stupidity defies description. A determined migrant could scramble up the containers and jump onto soft sand on the Arizona side. But why bother? Where the ground was too steep to stack containers, it was easier to scramble over low iron cross pieces and token barbed wire.

Border security depends on ubiquitous green SUVs directed by electronic surveillance. Smugglers sheltering in the containers could monitor movements to infiltrate migrants and contraband when the coast was clear.

In any case, the bulk of fentanyl and narcotics enters America at ports of entry, hidden in trucks and railroad cars. Big-time criminals use false documents, tunnels and jet skis into California. Mostly, poor families with no other option brave heat and bandits to come in the hard way.

Ducey’s Folly went up in deep-red Cochise County, with a Trumplican sheriff, just across the Santa Cruz County line, where a sheriff of opposite view threatened to arrest anyone caught building the barrier. During construction, self-appointed vigilantes kept away the curious with convincing menace. But protesters asserted their right to access on public land.

I found the site deserted except for a burly guy with a bushy gray beard in a pickup who kept close watch on me. When I approached him, he muttered a wary “what’sup?” I asked about plans for the containers. He replied, “I don’t know anything,” and drove away.

Ducey hired Ashbritt Inc., a Florida disaster-relief contractor, to build the barrier. Near Fort Huachuca farther north, I ignored no-entry signs at a vast yard of waiting containers. “Yep,” a friendly but cautious security guard told me, “they’re sending them back to where they came from.” His amused eyeroll made clear what he thought of the project.

Hobbs wants to use the containers as homeless shelters. But when the watchman explained the costly logistics of moving around heavy 20-foot and 40-foot metal boxes, it was obvious that prefab units built where they were needed would cost taxpayers a lot fewer TGTs.

Ducey’s barrier is a short bounce along a washboard road from Coronado National Memorial, remembering the Spanish explorer who came up from Mexico in 1540, the first of countless “undocumented aliens” over following centuries.

New intruders evicted old ones, often brutally. Until the 1853 Gadsden Purchase, this enclave of the United States was Mexico. Indian tribes fought over land once occupied by others. Today, humane policies are essential, with a firm grasp on America’s founding principles.

The nation prospered with polyglot emigrants of most every faith from all over the map. Now a selfish extreme demonizes new arrivals. Margorie Taylor Greene, that imbecile from Georgia soon to have outsized power in Congress, demands a four-year ban on all immigrants.

No country can open its doors to all comers. But few are as unwelcoming to needed foreign expertise and willing labor as the United States. It is hardly “full,” as Trump alleges. On the contrary. A runaway pandemic depleted the pool of people willing to do the nation’s dirty work.

One answer to that hoary question – why do “they” hate us? – is America’s approach to destitute economic migrants and refugees. The outside world sees a rich nation impose selfish petty politics on families caught between life and death.

After World War II, the United States pushed hard for a Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Geneva Conventions. Today, it shuns even direct victims of needless wars that it started and people who risked their lives to work with American troops or U.S. embassies.

U.S. immigration policy is shot full of hypocritical inconsistencies, arbitrary quotas and catchall disqualifications. Logically, applicants should simply wait in line. But with no direct family member or interceding sponsor, that can range from decades to never.

Yet a real estate crook who funds politicians can declare his wife, a soft-porn model, as a renowned artist and bring in a chain of Slovenian relatives. Bigtime chiselers can buy green cards with a $500,000 investment that produces few of the jobs it is supposed to create.

America’s melting pot, now an un-tossed salad bowl, might do better with more taxpaying workaday families rather than, say, an Australian Murdoch who became a citizen to buy up major newspapers and launch a propaganda “news” channel that perverts the political process. Or a South African-born Musk, who believes his huge fortune grants omnipotence. Just saying.

Trump launched his campaign by declaring Mexicans “rapists and murderers,” then fortified his America First cult by targeting peaceable Muslims before slamming the door on most everyone. He used Covid-19 to invoke Title 42 to reject even asylum applicants because of health risks.

Perhaps 1.6 million people wait in limbo for a hearing that could take years to schedule. The partisan Supreme Court just blocked Biden’s order to end Title 42 restrictions. Yet in an America with no memory, most people blame the incumbent for his predecessor’s ungodly mess.

In fact, Biden sent Vice President Kamala Harris to Central America early in his term to confront reasons for mass migration: repressive government, gang violence and crushing poverty. But Trump had crippled the diplomatic corps and foreign aid essential to effecting change. A Republican-controlled House will likely worsen the crisis and fault the Democratic president.

On Christmas Day, America saw the height of depravity. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott dumped three busloads of immigrants, hapless human pawns, on Harris’s doorstep in Washington.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, the likely Republican candidate if Trump’s crimes catch up with him, faces no immigrant surge in Florida. Still, he spends heavily to help Abbott and other governors seek votes by adding hardship to families who survived a perilous trek to America.

Public funds spent on permeable token barriers and answering baseless “stop the steal” lawsuits could have paid for temporary housing and more competent jurists to quickly screen new arrivals. Many would have to be turned away, which gets to the real border crisis. Desperate people south of the U.S. border — and everywhere else — need help to stay put.

During the Obama years, I met a kindly woman at a Tucson protest rally when recent Mexican arrivals faced growing antipathy from gringo nativists, many who had moved in from other states. Like most migrants forced to flee poverty or oppression, she would rather have stayed home in a culture she knew among people close to her.

“I crossed the border illegally because I couldn’t support my family,” she told me. “You think I want to clean people’s toilets for $5 an hour?” She eventually got her papers and sent two daughters through school. One is a lawyer; the other, a doctor.

Some protesters waved Mexican colors, and a passerby sneered at her: “Where’s your flag?” She pulled a red, white and blue banner from her bag and waved it in his face. “Here,” she said. “You want to burn it?”

On a global scale, America’s economic and military clout could spearhead concerted action against climate calamity, conflict and greed that forces so many to uproot their lives. Beyond humanity, this is about security. Perceived injustice swells the ranks of terrorist groups and their sympathizers.

In one year of Middle East mayhem, German Chancellor Angela Merkel took in more than a million refugees. She is now gone. Few Americans noticed a Jan. 6-inspired coup attempt in a different Germany, which police rapidly quashed. It may seem like comic-opera buffoonery, but it wasn’t.

In Italy, Giorgia Meloni channels Mussolini, declaring that she would rather see migrants drown at sea than reach Italian shores. Viktor Orbán brutalizes refugees at his border, brushing aside what the free world has done since 1956 to aid Hungarians fight oppressive Soviet rule.

Steve Bannon now focuses his energies on uniting European neo-fascist “populists” against liberal democracies. He has had limited success, but that will likely change if the United States takes a right turn in 2024.

Meantime, climatic calamities increase at a terrifying pace, forcing millions to besiege borders. Republicans stymie climate mitigation, pushing instead to use more fossil fuels. And Vladimir Putin’s war, which Trump applauded, cuts deeply into global food supplies.

Here in Arizona, Ducey’s ploy was a minor brushstroke on a big canvas, but it reflects what happens when so many Americans ignorant of history fall for blatant bullshit.

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