The Trump regime is of course turning a blind eye towards efforts to build a private border land wall near Mexico, because in a couple of centuries they might even be done with it. And of course, Kris Kobach is neck deep in the con job.
Down a bumpy dirt road, past a dozen “No Trespassing” signs, two amateur sentries in neon safety vests guarded the way to a giant symbol of Trump-era politics rising up from the Chihuahuan Desert.
After one of the guards Armando asked our business and radioed someone called Viper, telling him to “stand down,” we were waved through a makeshift checkpoint and onto the site where supporters of President Donald Trump have built hundreds of yards of border wall on private land overlooking the Rio Grande.
What began in December as a quixotic online crowdfunding effort to get Trump’s promised “big, beautiful wall” built has turned into a physical barrier constructed under the direction of influential right-wing immigration opponents. On Wednesday, its backers demonstrated the wall to a handful of reporters, showing off the structure in all its steel-and-concrete glory ahead of an official ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday.
Its organizers insist their version of the wall is a feasible model for securing hundreds of miles of southern border. Its critics call it a xenophobic scam. The fact that the effort has gotten to this point at all suggests a different and broader truth: That in the Trump era, the line between a surreal stunt and an important political development can be extremely blurry.
On Wednesday, former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach offered a tour of the wall — at one point scrambling over crumbling hillside to demonstrate the difficulty of passing the terrain — while negotiating with local officials over a permitting issue that threatened to derail construction.
At the same time, Kobach has been overseeing legal aspects of the project, now housed under a nonprofit called We Build the Wall, he has been negotiating with the White House over a possible appointment as the nation’s actual “immigration czar,” a potential new post that could give him vast influence over the federal bureaucracy.
Last week, The New York Times reported a list of Kobach’s conditions for accepting the job, which included 24/7 access to a government plane and were reportedly viewed as presumptuous by some inside the administration. On Wednesday, Kobach defended those conditions. “If you're serious about solving this problem you've got to have a position that has the authority and the tools to solve the problem,” he told me.
He also said he is “99 percent” certain he knows who leaked the list, though he did not offer any names.
Kobach said he last spoke to Trump about the wall project in the Oval Office three weeks ago, and that the president drilled him on the technical specifications, expressing special interest in their model’s anti-climbing features, a set of horizontal steel plates covering the tops of the wall’s vertical slats. “Are you going to paint it?” Kobach recalled the president asking him.
The wall stands on the same stretch of border where an armed militia group, the United Constitutional Patriots, was recently detaining migrants as they enter the United States. Kobach and other leaders of the wall project said they are not associated with the militias and do not condone armed vigilante action. They argue that putting up walls will put such groups “out of business.”
But his disavowals have not been entirely embraced by the movement. “I don’t support that sort of activity—yet,” said conservative pundit David Clarke, a former sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, who works on public outreach for the project. “I’m real close,” said Clarke, who said that if there is not a more significant migration crackdown by the end of Trump’s first term, he would endorse vigilante action.
There also appears to be some intermingling of the militia group and the wall efforts. We Build the Wall has shared footage shot by the group online, and people associated with the group continue to make appearances at the site of the private wall project, despite intense scrutiny of the militia’s activities.
Everybody in the GOP wants in on the grift, and Kobach is leading the charge. Never forget that the GOP is all about enriching themselves at the expense of the rest of us.