On June 16, 2015, just a few days after billionaire businessman Donald J. Trump announced his run for president of the United States, he proposed a “great wall” on the U.S.-Mexican border because “when Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best… They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with [them]. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Stronger border security and a “great wall” that Mexico would pay for was one of Trump’s top campaign promises. At campaign rallies, his supporters roared the most when it came to border security.
1. Is Trump The First Political Candidate To Propose A Physical Barrier?
In 1989, the United States began construction of a 66-mile fence. It was a wild success. Apprehensions dropped 95 percent, from 100,000 a year to 5,000 a year. It has a 10 feet fence of welded metal panels, a 15 feet fence of steel mesh, and in some areas – a third smaller chain-link fence.
It was so successful that President Bill Clinton signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act in 1996, which added an additional 14 miles to the San Diego Border Fence and added tougher border security measures.
In addition to the 75 miles of existing fencing, both chambers of Congress successfully passed Congressman Peter T. King’s Secure Fence Act of 2006, which created a 700-mile, double-layered fence, in addition to the 75 miles of existing fencing. The Senate approved of it by an 80-19 vote, which included Senate Democrats such as Barack Obama, Joe Biden, John Kerry, and Chuck Schumer. The House also approved of it by a 283-138 vote, with 219 Republicans and 64 Democrats voting in favor. It was signed into law by President George W. Bush.
Today, we have 700 miles of a border “fence.”
2. How Is The Current Border “Fence” Different From Trump’s Proposed “Wall”?
According to the dictionary, a “wall” is essentially the same thing as a “fence.” The real difference is that people usually think of a “fence” as a wooden barrier, while a “wall” is typically associated with a concrete barrier.
Since there are 700 miles of an existing fence, President Trump has proposed an extension and secondary fencing. Just law week, Trump sent a detailed proposal to legislators calling for $18 billion over the next decade to add more than 300 miles of new barriers, and 400 miles of replacement or secondary fencing at the border.
In fact, President Trump has already admitted that his wall was just a “renovation.”
The WALL, which is already under construction in the form of new renovation of old and existing fences and walls, will continue to be built.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 14, 2017
Also, some GOP Senators have claimed that the “wall” will actually look like a “fence.” In other words, the so-called Trump Wall is essentially a fourth extension of the San Diego Border Fence created in 1990.
The left-wing Washington Post correctly points this out:
“What’s much more realistic is that Trump will simply add more miles of fencing; reinforce existing fencing in key, visible places; and deploy even more border guards, stadium lighting, and the latest high-tech detection and surveillance equipment. The newest, tallest part of the Trump Wall — probably erected at one of the most visible, urban spots on the border — would be an effective backdrop for the president’s celebratory news conference announcing its construction.
In the end, Trump’s wall is likely to be the latest addition to the border barrier-building frenzy first launched by President Bill Clinton, greatly expanded by George W. Bush and continued by Obama. But Trump will take full ownership of it as the only president willing to actually call it a wall.”
3. Will The Trump Wall Reduce Illegal Immigration?
Of course, a physical barrier would be at least somewhat helpful in reducing illegal crossings and illegal drug flow. We already have evidence of success: San Diego and El Paso.
Paul Sperry of the New York Post found that the number of deportable illegal immigrants located by the border patrol agents dropped by more than 89 percent during the five-year time period in which the El Paso fence was being built. Before 2010, El Paso was one of the most dangerous cities in America. Since then, FBI data shows that the sixth largest city of Texas has consistently topped low crime rankings for cities with at least half a million residents. For example, property crimes dropped 37 percent from their pre-fence peak.
It also worked in Hungary. The Daily Caller News Foundation reported that their border fence “went up Oct. 17, 2016, the influx went down to 870 from 6,353 only a day earlier. Illegal border crossings were steadily below 40 per day throughout the rest of the month.”
4. When Will It Be Built?
Let’s start with the Trump Wall timeline:
On January 25, 2017, President Trump signed Executive Order 13767, titled “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” directing the federal government to build the Trump Wall.
In February 2017, the Department of Homeland Security issued a memo outlining its commitment to “begin planning, design, construction and maintenance of a wall.” That month, the federal government asked the private sector for prototypes and got answers from two hundred different companies.
In September 2017, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced the construction of eight prototypes.
Construction on 8 wall prototypes began today in San Diego. The prototypes are designed to deter illegal border crossings. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/WB1rIojgLj
— CBP (@CustomsBorder) September 26, 2017
Back to the question: when will the Trump Wall, a fourth extension of the San Diego Border Fence, be completed?
Some say it won’t be in his first term.
Politifact argued that it took over six years to build 700 miles of fence that currently exists across the U.S.-Mexico border, so it would take another six years for a 300-mile extension and 400 miles of secondary fending.
James Jirsa, a civil engineering professor at the University of Texas. guessed 5 to 10 years would be a “reasonable” amount of time from the initial design to the wall’s completion, barring any serious issues.
Adrienne Lafrance of The Atlantic pretty much wrote off the possibility of it being completed by 2020:
“Even if lawmakers approved that kind of cash this week, the wall almost certainly wouldn’t be complete by the end of Trump’s first term—or even a potential second term. The ‘iron law’ of infrastructural megaprojects, according to a paper by Bent Flyvbjerg published in the Project Management Journal in 2014, is that they will go ‘over budget, over time, over and over again.’
This is obviously the case in projects where everything that can go wrong seemingly does (think: Boston’s infamous Big Dig highway project). But even for well-managed megaprojects, building major infrastructure always seems to take longer than estimates suggest. Sometimes that’s because a time estimate only pertains to the actual construction—not the time leading up to it, says Andrew Natsios, the director of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs at Texas A&M University.”
The problem with these arguments is that it doesn’t take into account the simple fact that there is already a “wall” at the border, so President Trump can simply shorten the extension project and simply declare the campaign promise fulfilled by November 2020.
5. How Will It Be Funded?
In August, Democrats pledged to block any efforts to build the Trump Wall, despite their past support for a physical barrier.
Currently, President Trump and Republicans are trying to cut a deal with Congressional Democrats for Trump Wall funding in exchange for Dreamer citizenship.
Will Mexico pay for it?
Of course, Mexico will not volunteer to directly pay for wall funding. It won’t happen unless if America threatens war and literally puts a gun to the Mexican president’s head. But, President Trump never said that he wanted Mexico to volunteer and directly pay for it.
Instead, Mexico will pay for it indirectly through a “border adjustment” tax. Writing in the Washington Post, Marc Thiessen argued that “Right now, more than 160 countries around the world have a ‘border adjusted’ value-added tax (VAT). So unlike tariffs, a border adjustment should be able to pass muster with the World Trade Organization.”
Economist Martin Feldstein calculates the border adjustment would bring in about $120 billion a year, or $1 trillion over a decade. This means that this tax could pay for the Trump Wall and any additional border security several times over.
Without a border adjustment tax, President Trump could impose tariffs, which are highly controversial and could hurt the economy. However, tough trade policies were among President Trump’s biggest promises and apart of his populist ideology.
In addition to the border adjustment tax and tariffs, President Trump also proposed a “solar wall” with solar panels in June 2017, claiming that “The higher it goes, the more valuable it is. Pretty good imagination, right?”
A lot of liberals mock the price of the “Trump Wall,” but it appears that it will pay for itself, help pay for border security, and even add tax revenue on top of all that.