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Selling the southern border wall

Americans, we're doing this immigration thing (especially the southern border wall) all wrong! We've abdicated our position as the world's greatest marketers and surrendered to the politicians, who as we all know, are the world's worst marketers. The Trump Administration has so far failed to take the 'build the wall and make Mexico pay for it' argument to the next level where it desperately belongs.

Permit me to dive into the details of the Trump 'build the wall' mantra. Notice that the President did not say that the Mexican government would pay for the wall; he said Mexico and that can mean any number of things. South-of-the-border citizens living in the U.S., illegally, could help finance the cost of building the wall by paying a surcharge on their remittances back to Mexico (in the billions of dollars every year).

Illegal border crossers (IBCs) that are apprehended could be levied an extra 'border construction fine' before they are sent back to their country of origin, and a special 'border wall tariff' could be applied to goods entering the U.S. under the NAFTA agreement from Mexico.

Average U.S. citizens could help out, too. The Administration could offer the equivalent of the old 'War Bond' to help finance the construction costs. Or what about naming a stretch of the wall after the donor for every donation? Ten dollars would get you a foot of the wall, a hundred dollars for a yard.

For a thousand dollar donation you would not only get your name inscribed on the wall but a ten-foot long billboard with room for your own message with Burma shave-like verbiage: "Climbing this wall is not too smart. Staying at home is playing your part. Think before you make the leap, and stop before you fail. Remember there is room for you in a crowded U.S. jail! - Burma Shave.”

We need to get creative here and do what we do best...We need to market this wall as if it were one of our own products (it is, actually). We shouldn't be portraying it as a barrier to our friends down south. We need to be presenting it as an 'Information Wall' (IW).

Here's how. There are different messages and needs for the northern and southern sides of the Mexico border wall. The northern side must be seen to all who view it as an imposing impenetrable structure. That's why we need to incorporate different facades on different sections of the wall - like a medieval castle wall motif on areas where the U.S. public is worried about illegal border crossers.

This will allay their worries every time they look at massive stones stacked on top of each other. For the more liberal border states, the walls could be murals where a montage of changing photos of concerned citizens helping the economically-disadvantaged like scenes of 'Doctors without Borders' successfully treating patients would be shown.

The southern side of the IW would be designed to acquaint would-be IBCs with the benefits of learning English, understanding American culture and history, and most importantly, keeping them on their side of the border. That's why the Trump Administration needs to mend its fences with the Hollywood community in order to get their assistance in creating the "wall that isn't."

The magic-makers need to get involved in designing an attractive, miles-long 3-D panorama of 'stay at home' propaganda for those contemplating the big vault over. Yes, the IW needs everybody...Liberals and Conservatives, alike. We need to think of this project as the ultimate drive-in outdoor movie theatre that will prepare would-be American citizens for their future legal entry into Estados Unidos.

If everything works out well with the IW on our southern border, there's nothing stopping us from replicating it on our northern border with Canada. We would, of course, need to be much more polite and oblique in our messaging to get through to our Maple Leaf-wearing neighbors if we want to stem the tide of the nearly ten Canadians wanting to emigrate to the U.S. every year.

Stephan Helgesen is a retired U.S. diplomat and now political analyst and author. He has written eight books and over 800 articles on politics, economics and social trends. He can be reached at:

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