President Donald Trump campaigned against lax immigration laws, arguing that porous borders cause problems as diverse as drug use and terrorism, but his frenetic use of executive orders during his first week has made it difficult to keep up with everything he’s planned to do, let alone contemplate the full scope of Trump’s immigration doctrine.
This past weekend, as the effects of Trump’s abrupt and rather vaguely worded restrictions on refugees and immigrants from seven majority Muslim countries took hold, America’s airports and courts were plunged into chaos. It was enough to make you forget for a moment that Trump’s executive order from earlier in week aimed at creating a border wall that probably won’t do what he says it’ll do.
All the way back in 2015, when Trump announced his campaign, he accused undocumented immigrants of bringing drugs into the US, a point he has repeated several times since. According to historian Kathleen Frydl, Trump voters in parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania ravaged by drug addiction may have voted for him based on the idea that the narcotics flooding their communities came from foreign countries and that Trump alone could halt this flow.
But a wall, no matter how big and beautiful a symbol it may be, can’t do much to stop the flow of drugs into the US. In the grand scheme of things, a wall acts as little more than a literal speed bump that can be driven over by a literal car, according to Sanho Tree, director of the Drug Policy Project at the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies. In a recent interview, Tree—whose organization opposes the war on drugs—told me about all the ways highly motivated and well-funded cartel engineers can build infrastructure that will stymie Trump’s anti-drug ambitions.