President Trump’s Proposed Border Wall

JoshuaForeign Policy, FP Columns

Big and Beautiful


President Donald Trump’s “wall” along the U.S.-Mexico border would be a series of fences and walls that would cost as much as $21.6 billion, and take more than three years to construct, based on a U.S. Department of Homeland Security internal report seen by Reuters on Thursday.

The report’s estimated price-tag is much higher than a $12-billion figure cited by Trump in his campaign and estimates as high as $15 billion from Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.


The Trump administration is planning to ask for a relatively small amount of money to start building the President’s long-promised border wall this year — far short of estimates of what the wall might cost, according to preliminary numbers shared with CNN.

Despite President Donald Trump’s repeated calls to begin immediately building a substantive wall along the entire Southern border, which experts say would cost tens of billions of dollars, the administration is not asking for even a fraction of that in the near-term.

The agency said it will request bids on or around March 6 and that companies would have to submit “concept papers” to design and build prototypes by March 10, according to a website for federal contractors. The field of candidates will be narrowed by March 20 and finalists must submit offers with their proposed costs by March 24.

The president told the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday that construction will start “very soon” and is “way, way, way ahead of schedule.”
New York Post

“To keep Americans safe, we have made tough choices that have been put off for too long,” Trump wrote in a message to Congress. “But we have also made necessary investments that are long overdue.”

The outline increases defense spending by $54 billion and increases funding for immigration enforcement as well as $4.1 billion investment for his promised wall on the southern border.

Trump has at times wavered about the grandiosity and final shape of his wall, suggesting that some areas could be covered by fencing and that areas with rough terrain wouldn’t need additional fencing beyond preexisting natural barriers. But the baseline estimate of 1,000 miles of a big, beautiful wall made out of concrete and steel would dwarf any project he, or any other developer, has previously undertaken. The New Yorker reported that a 30-foot-tall structure would require three times the amount of concrete in the Hoover Dam, along with 5 billion pounds of steel for reinforcement.


The initial money will be part of a $30 billion supplemental request for defense spending this year. Customs and Border Patrol has already begun soliciting ideas from businesses, with more than 600 submitting design concepts. The agency is expected to release two formal requests for proposals soon, one focusing on a concrete wall and another for other types of barriers.

A CNBC analysis of the companies that have expressed preliminary interest in the project shows most of them are based in California and Texas — more than 100 vendors each — according to a government database. Only two states, Maine and Vermont, did not have any businesses apply as of early this week.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) acknowledged that building a wall means forcing some Americans to sell private land along the border to accommodate construction. That process, known as eminent domain, allows the federal government to require land owners to choose between accepting an often below-market value price for their home or risk having the government seize the land without permission.
Washington Post

In a post-9/11 era of economic anxiety and Minutemen patrolling the borders, scattered fencing no longer sufficed. Consider the border blockades suggested by Republican presidential candidates in 2012: Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann pledged to build a double-fenced border wall from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico. Herman Cain went further, arguing that a 20-foot-tall, electrified barrier topped in barbed wire was what we needed.

Texas Governor Rick Perry, the incoming energy secretary for the Trump administration, was perhaps the only candidate in the 2012 race with extensive knowledge of the sprawling southern border, and he took a different approach. He suggested a more complex combination of fencing, surveillance technology, and “boots on the ground.” A border-length fence, he said, would require up to 15 years and $30 billion, and wouldn’t be “cost-effective.”

While past attempts to secure the border with technology have proven to be mirages and money pits (a notable example being the Boeing-led effort to build a cutting-edge border security system in 2005, which flamed out after the company spent more than $1 billion to construct just 53 miles of fencing, sensors, and radar), a technological solution would likely cost a fraction of what a solid barrier would.

And as Perry’s rejection of a full-length physical barrier demonstrates, the closer politicians get to the border, the more they think the idea of a solid wall is foolish. Texas politicians familiar with the everyday workings of the border—and who have numerous constituents who would be forced to sell portions of their land to make way for the wall—don’t mince words.

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX 28th District) called the wall “a 14th-century solution to a 21st-century problem,” and Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX 23rd District), whose district runs along 800 miles of border, says a wall would be “the most expensive and least effective way to secure the border.”

Rep. Filemon Vela (D-TX 34th District) said in an open letter about the wall idea that Trump could “shove it up his ass.” “He’s not going to build a wall. The people in my district will line up on the border. He’ll see a human chain the likes of which he’s never seen.” (In Arizona, leaders of the Tohono O’odham Nation, which controls vast swaths of border territory, have called for Standing Rock-like protests if the wall comes to pass.)

Even retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, the new secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, who will be in charge of constructing Trump’s wall, has said “a physical barrier in and of itself will not do the job.”

If Trump’s border wall stopped between 160,000 and 200,000 people from entering the country illegally, CIS finds, the savings would offset the expected cost of the wall.

-Daily Caller

President Donald Trump’s border wall only needs to stop about 10 percent of illegal crossing in order to pay for itself, according to an analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies.

The estimated $12 to $15 billion cost of the wall would quickly be offset by the savings to the government if fewer illegal immigrants arrive in the country over the next decade, CIS found. Only a small portion of the population of people who are expected to attempt an illegal crossing in the next decade — between 9 and 12 percent — would have to be stopped for the wall to totally pay for itself.

The analysis from CIS, a group that advocates for moderating immigration levels, relies on fiscal estimates from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NAS) for the average cost to taxpayers of illegal immigrants. NAS estimates one illegal immigrant costs state and local governments approximately $75,000 in a lifetime, taking into account taxes paid and the cost of providing benefits such as education and health care.

If Trump’s border wall stopped between 160,000 and 200,000 people from entering the country illegally, CIS finds, the savings would offset the expected cost of the wall.

Estimates on the cost of the wall have ranged from as low as $8 billion to as high as $20 billion. Opponents of its construction argue the wall will not be effective in stopping all immigrants, and use that argument in conjunction with the price tag to assert building the wall is a waste of resources. While CIS finds it would quickly pay for itself, the analysis does note most of the fiscal burden for illegal immigrants falls on state and local governments, while the cost of the wall will fall on the federal government.

Nevertheless, the cost estimates are somewhat conservative, as they do not take into account the cost to the government of the children of illegal immigrants. If those costs are included as estimated by NAS, the fiscal drain increases to about $95,000 per illegal immigrant. CIS also notes the wall could save taxpayers nearly $64 billion over the next decade if half of the crossings are stopped — more than three times the expected cost of the wall.
Daily Caller

In Conclusion

Trump has never acknowledged that since the Great Recession the net outflow of Mexicans is larger than the inflow, and instead, continues to insist that the wall is necessary to curtail Mexican undocumented migration. Rather than explaining how the wall will reduce unauthorized entrances, Trump has focused on his ability to build one that’s “big” and “beautiful,” and on the idea that Mexico will pay for it.
The Atlantic

The amendment (to a 2008 spending bill) removed an explicit requirement the wall be made of double-layer fencing, and gave the Department of Homeland Security authority to put in place less effective barriers, such as simple vehicle barriers that do not keep pedestrians out. As a result, Democrats were able to avoid a politically unpopular vote against the wall, and then turn around and quietly gut its construction. But Trump and Republicans in Congress are now using that law to ensure a proper wall is constructed.
Daily Caller

The Great Wall of China survived not as an instrument of separation, but as a piece of infrastructure to move people and information faster. And this is precisely what we need to do: Transform the southern border into a driver of economic opportunity with social and environmental sustainability in mind.
Dallas News

Modified: March 16, 2017

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