thegreatescape.jpg
United Artists

Hey Donald,

You a movie guy? Do you like movies at all? Okay. I’m guessing you’re not really that much of a movie guy. You’re a busy man, I know. But you’ve, like, at least seen a movie, right? You’ve probably seen at least 10 movies in the 70 years you’ve been alive on this earth. I hope that's not too much of a stretch.

Since you’re so old, Donald, one of the movies you’ve probably seen is The Great Escape. It’s a classic. One of the best movies of all time. It came out in 1963. Steve McQueen? James Garner? Charles Bronson? Yeah. It’s totally awesome. Great movie. You seem to like war movies, if I’m not mistaken. Apparently you’re super into Remarque’s book All Quiet on the Western Front—a pretty sophisticated choice since it’s all about how terrible the conditions were for German soldiers during World War I. The fact that you like it so much suggests you are capable of empathy for the other side. That’s pretty noble of you. Since you’re such a fan of the book, I’m guessing you’ve seen the movie, too, which has got to be one of the most depressing movies ever made. Oof, that butterfly scene, am I right? Heartbreaking.

Okay, so back to The Great Escape, which I’m almost certain you’ve seen. You remember what happens in that movie? Okay, okay, you’re old, maybe your memory’s not so hot. So a bunch of Allied soldiers are captured and become POWs in a high-security German camp. Maybe you don’t think so highly of these POWs, judging by how you rate John McCain, but still. Come on. You can’t deny Steve McQueen. King of Cool.

There’s a fence at the edge of the camp, and a bunch of guards in the towers shoot the POWs who try to escape. But—and here’s where the title The Great Escape comes into play—these sneaky POWs dig a tunnel to get out of the camp. See what I’m driving at? You’re going to build a wall, apparently. A really yuge wall. A fantastic, incredible wall, the best wall that’s ever been seen.

stalagtunnel.jpg

But tunnels, Donald. Tunnels totally beat walls. And people can totally dig tunnels underneath your amazing, precious wall. And people will. In fact, it’s already happened—there’s already an intricate tunnel network beneath the US/Mexico border that allows drugs and people to sneak underneath. Here’s another movie for you: Sicario. It’s really good. You might not like it so much because a woman is the hero and it’s sort of sympathetic toward Mexicans. But it has Josh Brolin in flip-flops, and it paints the cartel-run city of Juarez with a fairly wide brush, and it contains more than one scene of violence toward women, so, you know, maybe that’ll do it for ya. Anyway, tunnels—they’re all over that movie.

Even Australia’s rabbit-proof fence didn't really work, and rabbits are significantly less wily than people. You know what did work against the rabbits? Myxomatosis. Surely you’re not going to propose infecting potential illegal immigrants with disease. Oh dear god, please tell me you're not.

There have been vague claims that your wall will include "tunnel technology." Nobody knows what that means. Would you just have your wall go deep underground? 15 feet deep? 30 feet deep? People will dig under it. Will you have sensors that can tell if people—or mice, or bugs, or snakes, or moles, for that matter—are beneath the wall? People can dig under those sensors, too. There are supposedly technologies that can use acoustic activity and density scans and other things to aid in tunnel detection, but none of them have been proven to be particularly effective. And the seismic scanning used to combat tunnelers in Israel is alarmingly expensive: $10 million per kilometer, which would come out to a price tag in the range of $32 billion in the case of the US/Mexico border.

What I’m saying is: There’s no wall in the world that can be built that can’t be trumped by a tunnel. It doesn’t matter how great your wall is, how tall, how thick, how shiny and sparkly and strong you build it. If a bunch of POWs using little more than candlelight and their bare hands were able to tunnel their way out of the highest-security POW camp where every spare inch of the wall was under intense surveillance (and they did—The Great Escape is a true story), then your nearly 2,000-mile wall across the US/Mexico border isn’t gonna do jack shit.

Support The Portland Mercury

One more thing from The Great Escape. Surely you remember this part. Okay, this particular incident didn’t actually happen in real life, but it’s pretty damn cool.

See how easy that was?