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The Law of Unintended Consequences in action: 30 foot high border wall causes hundreds of serious or fatal injuries in people climbing over it.


The former guy is notorious, for among many other things, for building a 30 foot high “unscalable” border wall in places along the US-Mexico border. He had 52 miles of new wall built and supervised raising of portions of the 649-mile wall already in place as of 2011. From Wikipedia:

 In May 2011, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stated that it had 649 miles (1,044 km) of barriers in place.[4]An additional 52 miles of primary barriers were built during Donald Trump’s presidency.[5] The total length of the national border is 1,954 miles (3,145 km). On July 28th 2022, the Biden Administration announced it would fill four wide gaps in Arizona near Yuma, an area with some of the busiest corridors for illegal crossings.[6]

If you want to go around the fence, you might try the mountains or the desert– fifty miles of empty land, finally touching a road on the Totono-O’odham Reservation.

The wall/fence was initially proposed by a Republican Congressman in 2005, who wanted a fence along the entire border. An “electronic fence” was proposed and tested, but apparently never really got off the ground; it was administered by Boeing Corporation, which had “numerous delays and cost overruns” (you could say that about almost every project ever conceived.) The next year, a law was passed and money was appropriated for fencing along about 700 miles of border. Mexico, Central American countries, and even the Mayor of the City of Laredo vociferously objected.

Nonetheless, President Obama announced in May 2011 that the wall was “basically complete.” He said (again, from Wikipedia):

We have gone above and beyond what was requested by the very Republicans who said they supported broader reform as long as we got serious about enforcement. All the stuff they asked for, we’ve done. But … I suspect there are still going to be some who are trying to move the goal posts on us one more time. They’ll want a higher fence. Maybe they’ll need a moat. Maybe they want alligators in the moat.[a] They’ll never be satisfied. And I understand that. That’s politics.[4]

Inevitably, the former guy, engineering and construction genius that he is, demanded that the wall be raised and extended. An entirely new type of “wall”– an open grid of steel bollards 30 feet high in places and with anti-climbing features– was designed and began to be built. It ran into “numerous delays and cost overruns” but construction continued until the last day of the former guy’s presidency.

One of the former guy’s ex-aides participated in a $30 fund-raising fraud advertising “more wall” to the right-wing faithful. He was caught and prosecuted, but surprise, surprise, he was pardoned by the former guy.

Coyotes soon figured out that a battery-powered saw could cut through the bollard in a few minutes (anecdotal information.) A number of locations have had to be repaired after “doors” were cut into them.

The simplest solution, a taller ladder for climbing, was even more popular. This inevitably led to people falling off of ladders and being injured from dropping thirty feet to the ground on the other side. Some people were even killed in this maneuver.

Don’t believe me? Check out this article from a medical ‘zine: “A Trauma Team’s Nightmare: Six Border Wall Fall Patients in Six Hours.” The article says: “Just from Jan. 1 to July 31, [Scripps] Mercy reported treating 141 patients and UCSD [both of San Diego, 25 miles north of the border and the biggest trauma centers in the area] reported 159, putting them on track to beat prior years’ wall-fall counts.”

That’s three hundred people who fell from the wall, survived, and had injuries serious enough to be transferred to trauma centers in seven months. At two trauma centers 25 miles from the west end of the border– never mind the ones further east. Aside from the human toll in serious (possibly disabling) injury and death, there’s the economic injury: none of these patients, including a few with half million dollar bills, had no way to pay either out of pocket or through insurance of any kind.

So the idea of a “great, big, beautiful wall” has become another nightmare for refugees trying to flee disintegrating countries, poverty, heat, drought, and hunger. Such wonderful people we are. Why could we not have seen that an “electronic wall” would be less intrusive, avoid injuries, and provide pictures of everyone who crossed over day and night?

No fence is unclimbable. Has no one ever thought that we need these immigrants for our economy? Has it never occurred to anyone that some of these people will be going to Canada as the world heats up even further?

[Note on the above text: there is overt and implied sarcasm in the comments expressed here. For instance, the former president is referred to as “the former guy” thanks to President Biden’s characterization of him early in his presidency, and this term is widely used.]

photo by Queven courtesy of

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