Here’s a 350-word summary of my 3,000-word report on what’s up with Trump’s border wall, which we just posted to WOLA’s website. But you should really ignore this and read the longer one: it’s better and has graphics and links to lots of sources.
How much would Trump’s proposed border wall cost? We’ve seen estimates ranging from $8 billion to $66.9 billion.
What would the wall look like? There are requests for proposals for two designs: concrete and “other.” The concrete one calls for something 18-30 feet high, going 6 feet underground. Nobody has any idea how many miles of wall might be built, though Customs and Border Protection staff gave Senate staff a figure of 1,827 miles. This amount would require some very difficult and costly wall-building along the winding Rio Grande in Texas.
What’s in the 2017 budget request? The White House wants $999 million in new 2017 budget money to get wall-building started and construct 62 miles. Right now, it only has $20 million on hand for this year, which doesn’t pay for much.
Will the 2017 money pass? For now, it looks like no, there won’t be any new border-wall money for 2017. The $999 million would go on a budget bill that has to pass by April 28th. Congressional Democrats, who have the power to block the bill in the Senate, are threatening to shut down the government rather than approve this money. Republican legislators, too, are either skeptical or want more information about the wall-building plan before they approve such a large amount. Polls meanwhile are also consistently showing 60-plus percent of respondents opposed to the border wall proposal.
What about 2018 funds? Information is vague, but the administration wants $2.6 billion to build about 75 miles next year. So the most intense debate on this may start mid-year.
Why is this such a bad idea? To build a wall would be to throw away a lot of money and a lot of international goodwill for nothing. A wall only slows a border-crosser for several minutes, which makes little difference in remote areas. Illegal migration is at nearly 45-year lows, while most drugs that cross the border (except marijuana) are low-volume substances that travel through ports of entry, not through areas where walls would be built. There are better ways to address remaining border security challenges.