11-foot ladder for a 10-foot wall

Homeland Security chief has perfect response to border wall fantasies

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The head guy in charge of U.S. border security says we’ve already got all the border walls we need, and building more to cover the rest of the border would be a fool’s errand.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says there’s a reason why there isn’t already a wall or fence line built across the entire Mexican border. Simply put, it would be pointless waste of money.

“As my predecessor used to say, build a 10-foot wall and I’ll show you an 11-foot ladder,” Johnson said during a forum last week at Duke University.

Walls work in urban areas, not at the top of remote mountain ranges, Johnson said. That’s why the U.S. has built walls and fences along some 650 miles of the border “in places that it makes sense to do so,” but not along the “winding Rio Grande Valley” or “on top of a 10,000 foot mountain in a desert.”

“If somebody is motivated enough to leave Central America and travel the entire distance of Mexico and climb a 10,000-foot mountain, they’re not going to be deterred by a 10-foot wall,” Johnson told the university students.

“That would not be a wise investment of taxpayer money,” he added.

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh JohnsonPhoto by Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson

Although Johnson was careful not to mention Donald Trump, or specifically reference the Republican candidate’s central campaign promise, he made it pretty clear that he thinks 11th century B.C. border security measures aren’t the way to go these days, even if we could make it prettier than the one in China.

“That’s the reality—we have a wall and fence in places where it makes sense to do that,” Johnson said. “We’ve also invested and continue to invest in surveillance technology, communications, aerial surveillance, vehicles, boats and so forth.”

And despite the hype and fear-mongering about an immigrant invasion, border controls are generally working, he said. The proof is in the pudding. Border apprehensions of undocumented immigrants are way down from where they were 16 years ago.

In 2000, there were 1.6 million apprehensions made along the border, whereas last year only 331,000 people were apprehended crossing the border illegally. While apprehensions don’t reflect all undocumented border traffic (a lot of people slip through), it’s still “the surest indicator we have right now of total people crossing the border,” Johnson said.

Even the 2014 “surge” of Central America kids resulted in 479,000 apprehensions—”still a fraction of what it used to be,” Johnson said.

“We simply do not have open borders,” he said.

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