Is a Border Wall Actually Possible?
During the 2016 election, one of the major campaign promises of Donald Trump was the building of a border wall to separate the United States (US) from Mexico. “Build the wall!” became a resounding chant during the 2016 election season. In short, the intention of such a wall was to stop undocumented immigration by persons from Central and South America. Yet, to many the wall seems impossible, largely due to the thousands of miles that span the US-Mexico border. And, nearly two years into his presidency, Trump has not yet convinced Congress to provide the full funds and support required for his border wall.
Will the Wall Receive Funding?
Yet, some appear to have warmed to the issue in Washington. Statements from both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan suggest that Republicans are supportive of Trump’s border wall. McConnell stated that his party was “committed to helping the President try to get…wall funding.” In the house, Republican support appears to be mounting. House Majority Leader McCarthy introduced the “Build the Wall, Enforce the Law Act” on Friday, October 12. These signs may mean that the wall will see the funding Trump requests – five billion dollars.
While it appears likely, commitment from Republican leaders in Washington does not guarantee funding for Trump’s border wall. Results from mid-term elections in November 2018 split Congress as Democrats gained control of the House. As a result, Trump may be unlikely to see any monetary support for his wall initiative, as many Democrats are starkly opposed to drastic increases in border security. Any support would likely need to come before Congress ends its session in the coming weeks. And as the session’s end looms in December, the president has threatened to force a government shutdown over the issue.
At this time, it is critical to take an in-depth look at the Trump administration’s goals for the US-Mexico border. Are the plans to build a continuous wall, as they stand, even feasible? How much funding will such an endeavor require?
Border Wall – Background
The shared border between the United States (US) and Mexico is roughly 2,000 miles. Four states border Mexico, including Texas, California, New Mexico, and Arizona. For years, the flow of undocumented immigrants across the US-Mexico border has been an issue of great debate within US politics. Hundreds of thousands cross the border each year. In 2017, the US Border Patrol apprehended an estimated 304,000 undocumented entrants across the US-Mexico border. An additional concern often cited by lawmakers is drug smuggling. Drug cartels utilize areas of weak border protection to smuggle illegal goods into the US.
A cornerstone of President Trump’s campaign, the border wall between the US and Mexico has incited bitter arguments between politicians, leaders, and scholars across the country. Those that support the wall believe it will offer safety, security, and prevent the passing of illegal goods and undocumented immigrants into the US. For those opposed, it represents extreme isolationist tactics enforced without thought for people, the environment, and civility. In late 2018, it appears that Republicans are preparing for a “big fight” to provide the funding required for Trump’s border wall. Some even worry that the US may face a government shutdown over the issue.
Executive Order 13767
In January 2017, just days into his presidency, Donald Trump issued Executive Order (EO) 13767. EO 13767 ordered the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to promptly begin preparations to secure the southern US border with a “physical wall” (EO 13767 Sec. 2(a)). In response, several border wall prototypes were created in partnership with US Customs and Border Protections (CBP). (See all the prototypes here.) CBP oversees US Border Patrol (BP), which is directly responsible for the enforcement of US border immigration laws. Since EO 13767, the DHS, CBP, and BP have initiated the “Border Wall System Program” to test prototypes, estimate costs, and ultimately build the Trump administration’s border wall.
How much will a border wall cost?
The border wall proposed by Trump would span thousands of miles of rough and changing terrain. Unsurprisingly, cost estimates for Trump’s US-Mexico border wall vary widely, and many do not consider costs of upkeep, maintenance, and protection. An initial report by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimated that the wall would cost over $21.5 billion over its three-year construction. Such a cost proves to be nearly double what President Trump originally estimated during his campaign. Further, even Trump’s initial estimate of $12 billion far exceeds the cost of the CBP’s current barrier efforts.
A later report released by Democratic Senators argued that the true cost of Trump’s border wall would likely exceed $70 billion. This exorbitant cost does not include the estimated $150 million annually required for maintenance of the 2,000 mile barricade. That is an astronomical sum. Such money could be better spent funding programs to help undocumented immigrants, asylees, and refugees, as well as improving the US immigration process and structure to prevent backlogs.
The truth about the cost of Trump’s proposed border wall? No one can say for certain. One fact seems guaranteed: it’s likely to be a major burden on American taxpayers for years to come.
A 2,000-mile uninterrupted wall is no small feat. Even if Congress approves full funding for Trump’s border wall, estimated by Republicans to be around $25 billion, is it truly possible to build?
A report released in 2018 by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) highlights concerns about the building and preparation processes of the DHS and CBP. The report explores the actions of the Border Wall System Program, including prototype construction and testing methods and location selection procedures for different sectors of the US-Mexico border. As a result, the GAO concluded that the DHS was “proceeding without key information on cost, acquisition baselines, and the contributions of previous barrier and technology deployments.” Thus, the border wall will likely “cost more than projected, take longer than planned, or not fully perform as expected.” Some of the details regarding the Border Wall System Program’s testing are below.
Border Wall Prototype Testing
In 2017 and 2018, eight border wall prototypes were built and evaluated for feasibility, including cost, requirements for construction, and penetrability. Prototypes were either made entirely of concrete (4) or of mixed materials (4). In summary, the testing team from US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) found all eight prototypes to present construction challenges. In fact, only two prototypes presented “moderate” construction challenges. The remainder had serious issues: two prototypes’ construction challenges were ranked “substantial” and four “extensive.” Therefore, this means that the cost, as estimated at $25 billion, is likely far under what would be required unless more flexible and appropriate prototypes are used.
Initial tests of border wall prototypes revealed severe engineering challenges. These concerns include necessary considerations like drainage, gates, and slope. Concerning drainage, only two of the eight original prototypes would require “minimal” changes. The additional six would require either “substantial” or “extensive” design changes to correct identified flaws. Additionally, only four of the prototypes were found to allow construction at up to a 45 degree slope; one prototype could not be built on any type of slope. Thus, what the prototype failures demonstrate is how difficult it will be to choose a wall that will work suitably across the entirety of the US border. Thus, the border wall endeavor will be costly without promise of success.
All considerations above, highlighted by the GAO in its report, are important. They raise serious questions about the feasibility of a massive US-Mexico border wall. Read the entirety of the report here.
Talk to an Expert Immigration Attorney
The final answer is in. In conclusion, while building a 2,000-mile border wall would be expensive and incredibly challenging, it will be possible with enough funding and manpower. And despite many other viable border patrol options, the Trump administration seems determined to complete this task. Despite its lack of feasibility or cost-effectiveness, a border wall seems probable in the near future. Unfortunately, it will also likely come at outrageous cost and potentially inflict incalculable environmental, societal, and cultural damage.
Located in Dallas, Texas, Davis & Associates deeply understands the potential consequences of a full-length US-Mexico border wall. The immigration attorneys at Davis & Associates follow each development regarding Trump’s border wall closely. If you have any immigration questions or concerns, help is at the ready. Contact Davis & Associates today for a free initial consultation with an expert immigration lawyer.
Edwards Ainsley, Julia. (2017, February 9). Exclusive: Trump border ‘wall’ to cost $21.6 billion, take 3.5 years to build: internal report. Reuters. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com