The Trump Wall, or simply The Wall, is a colloquial name for a proposed expansion of the fence that makes up the Mexico–United States barrier during the presidency of Donald Trump. Throughout his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump called for the construction of a much larger and fortified border wall, claiming that if elected, he would "build the wall and make Mexico pay for it." Then-President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto stated that his country would not pay for the wall. On January 25, 2017, the Trump administration signed Executive Order 13767, which formally directed the US government to begin attempting to construct a border wall using existing federal funding, although actual construction of a wall did not begin at this time due to the large expense and lack of clarity on how it would be paid for. The federal government was partly shut down December 22, 2018, to January 25, 2019, due to Trump's declared intention to veto any spending bill that did not include $5 billion in funding for a border wall. On February 15, 2019, Trump signed a Declaration of National Emergency, saying that the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border was a crisis requiring money allocated for other sources to be used to build the wall. Both houses of Congress approved a resolution to overturn the emergency order, but Trump vetoed the resolution.
Current Mexico–United States barrierEdit
The Mexico–United States barrier is a series of vertical barriers along the Mexico–United States border aimed at preventing illegal crossings from Mexico into the United States. The barrier is not one contiguous structure, but a discontinuous series of physical obstructions variously classified as "fences" or "walls".
Between the physical barriers, security is provided by a "virtual fence" of sensors, cameras, and other surveillance equipment used to dispatch United States Border Patrol agents to suspected migrant crossings. As of January 2009, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported that it had more than 580 miles (930 km) of barriers in place. The total length of the continental border is 1,954 miles (3,145 km).
In February 2017, Trump stated that "the wall is getting designed right now" but did not offer specifics. In March 2017, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) began accepting prototype ideas for a U.S.–Mexico border wall from companies and said it would issue a request for proposals by March 24.
In June 2017, Trump said that his proposed border wall should be covered with solar panels as a means of making "beautiful structures" and helping pay for the wall. This suggestion was criticized by some [according to whom?] as illogical or impracticable—Albert Pope of the Rice University School of Architecture of Houston, Texas noted that solar farms cannot be efficiently dispersed along a wall—while carried by others—John Griese, co-owner of the solar installation firm "Elemental Energy", estimated a profit of over $100 million per year from the panels. During the following month, Trump said that the wall should be "see through" in order to detect smugglers who "throw the large sacks of drugs over."
The Associated Press reported "upwards of 200 organizations had expressed interest in designing and building" the wall for CBP. By April 2017, several companies had released their proposed designs to the public (CBP does not publicly release bids, and intends to name only the winning bid). Various ideas advanced by companies included placing solar panels along part of a wall; placing artwork along the wall ("a polished concrete wall augmented with stones and artifacts" related to the local region); incorporating ballistics resistance technology and sensors for above ground and below ground penetration; and even the creation of a "co-nation" where the border is maintained by both countries in an open status.
In September 2017, the U.S. government announced the start of construction of eight prototype barriers made from concrete and other materials. On June 3, 2018 the San Diego section of the US border wall construction began. On October 26, a two-mile stretch of steel bollards in Calexico, California, was commemorated as the first section of Trump's wall, although media coverage heavily debated whether it should be considered a "wall" or a "fence".
A manufacturing company based in Pine City, Minnesota, was awarded a bid to help build the "virtual wall" along the border in 2018. Instead of using physical walls, this plan for a "virtual wall" would involve easily transportable "roll-up" towers with attached motion sensing and camera equipment. While initially small and mobile, when deployed the internal structure of the tower telescopes upwards to create a tall surveillance apparatus. Along remote parts of the border, this method could be cheaper and more practical than building permanent structures on location.
According to experts and analyses, the actual cost to construct a wall along the remaining 1,300 miles of the border could be as high as $16 million per mile, with a total cost of up to $25 billion, with the cost of private land acquisitions and fence maintenance pushing up the total cost further. Maintenance of the wall could cost up to $750 million a year, and if the Border Patrol agents were to patrol the wall, additional funds would have to be expended. Rough and remote terrain on many parts of the border, such as deserts and mountains, would make construction and maintenance of a wall expensive. Experts also note that on federally protected wilderness areas and Native American reservations, the Department of Homeland Security may have only limited construction authority, and a wall could cause environmental damage.
In February 2017, Reuters reported that an internal report by the Department of Homeland Security estimated that Trump's proposed border wall would cost $21.6 billion and take 3.5 years to build. This estimate is higher than estimates by Trump during the campaign ($12 billion) and the $15-billion estimate from Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Research at Texas A&M University and Texas Tech University indicates that the wall, like border walls in general, is unlikely to be effective at reducing illegal immigration or movement of contraband.
Critics of Trump's plan note that the expansion of the wall would not stop the routine misuse of legal ports of entry by people smuggling contraband, overstaying travel visas, using fraudulent documents, or stowing away. They also point out that in addition to the misuse of ports of entry, even a border-wide wall could be bypassed by tunneling, climbing, or by using boats or aircraft. Additionally, along some parts of the border, the existing rough terrain may be a greater deterrent than a wall.
Funding plans and actionsEdit
Campaign promise (2016)Edit
Throughout his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump called for the construction of a much larger and fortified border wall, claiming that if elected, he would "build the wall and make Mexico pay for it."
Trump repeatedly said that Mexico will pay for the construction of the border wall, but did not explain how the U.S. government would compel Mexico to do so. Trump stated that "there will be a payment; it will be in a form, perhaps a complicated form". The Mexican government has rejected Trump's statements and has rejected the idea of Mexico funding construction of a wall. Upon signing the order, the Trump administration also suggested that wall construction could be funded by a 20% tariff on Mexico imports, a proposal which immediately encountered objections from members of Congress of both parties. After the negative response, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus indicated that the administration was considering "a buffet of options" for funding a wall. In April 2016, Trump said that he would "'compel' Mexico to pay for a border wall by blocking remittances and canceling visas unless Mexico makes a one-time payment of $5 billion to $10 billion to the U.S." [according to whom?] have identified a number of legal, economic, and practical obstacles to such a proposal, saying that it would be impossible to track all money transfers between Mexico and the United States, or to effectively block all remittances. [according to whom?] also expressed concerns that blocking remittances would harm the U.S. economy. Brookings Institution fellow Aaron Klein said that a move to block remittances would be a reversal of the existing U.S. policy "to encourage the flow of money to come into the official system and to discourage the flow of funds through the underground network".
Executive Order (2017)Edit
On January 25, 2017, the Trump administration signed Executive Order 13767, which formally directed the US government to begin attempting to construct a border wall using existing federal funding, although actual construction of a wall did not begin at this time due to the large expense and lack of clarity on how it would be paid for.
Trump had planned to meet Peña Nieto at the White House on January 27, 2017, to discuss topics including border security and possible negotiations around the wall. However, the day before the meeting, Trump announced that the U.S. would impose a 20% tariff on imported Mexican goods as Mexico's payment for the wall. In response, Peña Nieto gave a national televised address stating that Mexico would not pay for the wall, and cancelled his meeting with Trump.
In March 2017, the Trump administration submitted a budget amendment for fiscal year 2017 that includes a $3 billion continuing budget for "border security and immigration enforcement." Trump's FY 2018 Budget Blueprint increases discretionary funds for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by $2.8 billion (to $44.1 billion). The DHS Secretary John F. Kelly told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee during a hearing the Budget Blueprint "includes $2.6 billion for high-priority border security technology and tactical infrastructure, including funding to plan, design and construct the border wall."
In July 2017, U.S. Representative Michael McCaul, Republican of Austin, Texas, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said that the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives would seek to pass a special supplemental appropriations bill to spend money on initial construction of the wall, a demand of the Trump administration. Such a supplemental spending bill was supported by then-House Speaker Paul Ryan. However, Senate Democrats have expressed confidence that they can block an appropriations bill for wall construction, with the aid of some Republicans who also oppose the construction of a wall due to its enormous cost. Speaking at a Trump rally on August 22, 2017, Trump threatened to close down the government if Congress did not approve funding: "The obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it, but believe me, if we have to close down our government, we're building that wall."
In August 2017, while speaking at a rally in Phoenix, Arizona, Trump said he would close down the U.S. government if necessary to force Congress to pay for the wall. He was harshly criticized by prominent leaders of his political base such as Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh for failing to secure $5 billion in funding for the wall in the previous fiscal year's appropriations bill.
Build the Wall Act introduced (2018)Edit
In March 2018, Trump also cited a study by the Center for Immigration Studies, which claimed that a wall along the Mexican border could save taxpayers $64 billion by reducing crime and welfare costs for undocumented immigrants for the 10 years after its construction, thereby breaking even on construction costs and "paying for itself". Eric Boehm of Reason magazine disputed this claim, stating that the study massively underestimated the actual cost of building and maintaining the wall. Boehm also criticized that the analysis overestimated the positive economic impact of stopping illegal immigration and how good the wall would be at preventing it, citing that a "third of all illegal immigrants" were simply overstaying their visa and did not actually enter the US illegally. As of the end of 2018, Mexico had not entered into any agreement to pay for any amount of the wall and there have been no new tariffs or earmarks dedicated to funding it. In March 2018, Congress appropriated $1.6 billion out of a $1.3 trillion spending bill towards the border barrier, characterized by Trump as a "down payment" that would be spent "building not only some new wall...but also fixing existing walls". In the end, this specific appropriation only ended up funding about 90 miles of barriers with Mexico.
The Build the Wall, Enforce the Law Act of 2018 was introduced on October 12, 2018 by then-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy who stated that, in his opinion, "President Trump’s election was a wake-up call to Washington."
GoFundMe effort (2018)Edit
In December 2018, a GoFundMe was created by Iraq-war veteran Brian Kolfage in order to provide funding for the wall after it was announced that the government spending bill would not cover funding for the wall. Kolfage has predicted that if each of the 63 million Trump voters donated $80 a piece the wall would be fully funded, and by January the fundraiser had raised more than $20 million. Bobby Whithorne, a GoFundMe spokesman, referencing Kolfage's promise that donations would be used to fund the wall if the proposed $1 billion was raised, stated that "that did not happen" and "this means all donors will receive a refund."
Government shutdown (2018–19)Edit
From December 22, 2018 to January 25, 2019, the federal government was partially shut down due to Trump's declared intention to veto any spending bill that did not include $5 billion in funding for a border wall. On January 4, 2019, Trump claimed that former presidents had privately told him they should have built a border wall, but every living former U.S. president denied this. In a televised speech on January 8, Trump asserted that 90% of the heroin sold in America "floods across from our southern border," although virtually all drugs smuggled across the border flow through legal ports of entry rather than through open border spaces. During a visit to McAllen, Texas on January 10, Trump said that Mexico would not directly pay for the wall, despite his having said so during the 2016 campaign: "When during the campaign, I would say 'Mexico is going to pay for it,' obviously, I never said this, and I never meant they're gonna write out a check, I said they're going to pay for it. They are. Mexico is paying for the wall indirectly, and when I said Mexico will pay for the wall in front of thousands and thousands of people, obviously they're not gonna write a check. But they are paying for the wall indirectly many, many times over by the really great trade deal we just made." Media fact-checkers determined this assertion to be false.
Declaration of national emergency (2019)Edit
On February 15, 2019, Trump signed a bill to fund the government for the balance of the fiscal year, but derided the bill as inadequate because it contained only $1.375 billion for border security. Trump had earlier insisted he needed $5.7 billion to extend the Mexico–United States barrier. At the same time, Trump signed a declaration that the situation at the southern border constitutes a national emergency. This declaration ostensibly made available $600 million from the Treasury Forfeiture Fund, $2.5 billion from the United States Department of Defense (including anti-drug accounts), $3.6 billion from military construction accounts, for a total of $8 billion when added to the $1.375 billion allocated by Congress. Around February 21-22, it emerged that over a third of those funds had already been spent for their original purposes, and were therefore unavailable.
On February 27, 2019, the House of Representatives voted 245-82 in favor of a resolution rejecting Trump's declaration of a national emergency on the southern border. On March 14, the Senate did the same on a vote of 59-41 (including all Democrats and 12 Republicans). The next day, Trump vetoed the bill. It was the first veto of his presidency. To override his veto would require a two-thirds majority in both houses of congress.
In March 2019, the Pentagon issued a list of proposed military construction projects which could be postponed, under the president's emergency declaration, so that their funding could be used for the wall.
The construction of a border wall, as envisioned in the order, could cause significant environmental damage, including habitat destruction and habitat fragmentation that would harm wildlife, including endangered species. Some of the species that may potentially be affected include ferruginous bighorn sheep, black bears, and pygmy owls.
A lawsuit arguing some of these points was brought forward by the National Butterfly Center, after employees discovered that parts of the planned wall would be built through the property. However, the Judge dismissed the case against the Department of Homeland Security, leading to the Center to claim that they will refile or appeal the case.
Opinions and responsesEdit
Executive Order 13767 drew "furious condemnation" from some civil rights organizations and immigrant advocacy groups, who described the order as "meanspirited, counterproductive and costly and said the new policies would raise constitutional concerns while undermining the American tradition of welcoming people from around the world". Some religious personalities were also largely critical of the border-wall proposal. Hundreds of citizens gathered at Washington Square Park in New York City to protest the executive order.
In Congress, some Republicans praised Trump's executive order, such as U.S. Representative Lamar S. Smith of San Antonio, Texas, who said that "he appreciated Trump 'honoring his commitment' on immigration", and Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who said the wall would stop illegal immigration and compared it to the Israel–Egypt barrier.[a] Other members of Congress from congressional districts along or close to the Mexican border were critical, such as U.S. Representatives Will Hurd (Republican of San Antonio, Texas), Henry Cuellar (Democrat of Laredo, Texas), and Joaquin Castro (Democrat of San Antonio, Texas). Hurd criticized the order as "the most expensive and least effective way to secure the border" while Castro considered the wall "a lazy and ineffective strategy". Then-U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said during a hearing that while she believed Americans want a secure border, she has "not met anyone that says the most effective way is to build a wall across the entirety of our southern border. The only one who keeps talking about that is President Trump."
Most members of the Southwest Border Sheriffs' Coalition, a group of sheriffs across the four states on the U.S.–Mexico border, are strongly opposed to the construction of a wall, citing its massive cost and logistical difficulties, and saying that the wall would not be effective. Tony Estrada, a member of the Coalition and the longtime sheriff of the border county of Santa Cruz County, Arizona, has emerged as an outspoken critic of Trump's border wall proposal, saying that the wall will not stymie drug cartel violence fueled by demand for drugs in the U.S. On the other hand, several Southwestern sheriffs praised and welcomed the proposal, and also activated a crowdfunding to support the construction. Well-known sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, who emerged as an outspoken supporter of Trump's border wall proposal, said the barrier is necessary to stop "having the terrorists coming across and criminals", asking also "what is wrong with a wall".
Build the WallEdit
The concept was first developed by campaign advisers Sam Nunberg and Roger Stone in summer 2014 as a memorable talking point Trump could use to tie his business experience as a builder and developer to his anti-immigration policy proposals. The wall was first positively received by conservative activists in January 2015 at the Iowa Freedom Summit hosted by Citizens United and Steve King, as well as two days later on conservative morning show Fox & Friends. The idea was repeated at his June 2015 announcement speech, along with a claim that Mexico would pay for it, and has been further repeated many times since.
The idea of the wall became popular enough among Trump's supporters that chants of "Build the Wall" became common at Trump rallies. After Trump won the 2016 election, reports emerged that the chant was being used by some children to bully their Latino classmates, and that the locations of these incidents were at least correlated with areas in which Trump received more votes.
A February 2017 study conducted by the Pew Research Center found that "[a]s was the case throughout the presidential campaign, more Americans continue to oppose (62%) than favor (35%) building a wall along the entire U.S. border with Mexico". 43% of respondents thought that a border wall would have little to no effect on illegal immigration. 70% of Americans thought that the U.S. would ultimately pay for the wall; 16% believed that Mexico would pay for it. Public opinion was polarized by party: "About three-quarters (74%) of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents support a border wall, while an even greater share of Democrats and Democratic leaners express opposition to building a wall across the entire U.S.–Mexico border (89%)." Younger Americans and Americans with college degrees were more likely to oppose a wall than older Americans and those without college degrees.
In a separate January 2017 study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 39% of Americans identified construction of a U.S.–Mexico border wall as an "important goal for U.S. immigration policy". By contrast, Americans found other policies to be important, such as cracking down on visa overstays (77% identified as important); allowing those who came to the U.S. illegally as children to remain in the country (72% identified as important); and increasing deportations of immigrants currently in the U.S. illegally (58% identified as important). The survey found that while there Americans were divided by party on many different immigration policies, "the widest [partisan split] by far is over building a southern border wall. Two-thirds of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (67%) say construction of a wall on the U.S.–Mexico border is an important goal for immigration policy, compared with just 16% of Democrats and Democratic leaners."
A March 2017 nationally representative survey of Americans conducted by the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago showed 58% of Americans oppose new spending for a border wall with Mexico, while 28% support such new spending. Opposition to spending on a border wall was highest among Democrats (86% oppose) and independents (57% oppose); Republicans were substantially more supportive.
A survey conducted by the National Border Patrol Council found that 89% of border patrol agents said a "wall system in strategic locations is necessary to securing the border." 7% of agents disagreed.
Impact on Mexico–U.S. relationsEdit
The executive order soured relations between the U.S. and Mexico. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto addressed Mexican citizens via a recorded message, in which he condemned Trump's executive order and again said that Mexico would not pay for the wall's construction. Following a Twitter feud between the two men in which Trump threatened to cancel a planned meeting with Nieto in Washington, Nieto decided to cancel the meeting himself.
Addressing supporters, Mexican opposition politician Andrés Manuel López Obrador condemned the wall order as an insult to Mexico, and demanded the Mexican government to pursue claims against the American government in the United Nations.
In March 2017, Mexican congressman Braulio Guerra of Querétaro illegally climbed, and partially crossed, an existing 30-foot border fence on American soil dividing San Diego and Tijuana, saying that more walls would be ineffective.[b]
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Mexico opposed the border wall, and wrote that any Mexican company that participates in construction of the wall or supplies materials for construction would be committing "treason against the homeland".
Other international reactionsEdit
Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, applauded the plan, endorsing it as a "Great success. Great idea." Netanyahu declared "Trump is right" and likened the proposal to the Israeli West Bank barrier. After Mexican protests the Prime Minister's office issued a statement saying that "[he] was addressing Israel's unique circumstances and the important experience we have and which we are willing to share with other nations. There was no attempt to voice an opinion regarding U.S.–Mexico ties."
Many people "have voiced doubts about whether a wall would actually stem illegal immigration, or if it is worth the billions it is expected to cost". Critics have noted that the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. had declined for several years before the order was signed, in part because of the Great Recession.
Gil Kerlikowske, the former Commissioner of the Customs and Border Protection, stated that the rugged terrain in the Arizona desert is one of many natural obstacles in the construction of the wall. Kerlikowske also said that the border currently has 700 miles of fencing, and that the border is patrolled by various means, including by agents on motorcycles or ATVs and drones. He said that the current method was preferable to a wall.
After the executive order was signed, Jason Marczak of the Atlantic Council wrote: "Today's events are dangerous for the immediate and long-term security and economy of the United States. U.S.–Mexico cooperation is far-reaching: from intelligence sharing for the capture of drug traffickers to the flow of commercial goods that support the livelihoods of nearly 5 million American workers."
On September 12, 2017, the United States Department of Homeland Security issued a notice that Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke would be waiving "certain laws, regulations and other legal requirements" to begin construction of the new wall near Calexico, California. The waiver allows the Department of Homeland Security to bypass the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Migratory Bird Conservation Act, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Noise Control Act, the Solid Waste Disposal Act, the Antiquities Act, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.
Environmental legal challengeEdit
In April 2017, the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group, and U.S. Representative Raúl Grijalva from Arizona, the ranking Democratic member on the House Committee on Natural Resources filed a lawsuit in federal court in Tucson. In their complaint, Grijalva and the Center argue that the government's wall construction plans fail to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, and seek to compel the government to carry out an environmental impact study and produce an environmental impact statement (EIS) before building the wall. The lawsuit specifically seeks "to stop any work until the government agrees to analyze the impact of construction, noise, light and other changes to the landscape on rivers, plants and endangered species—including jaguars, Sonoran pronghorns and ocelots—and also on border residents". Two separate cases, also arguing about the governent's failure to complete an EIS, were later filed, one by the groups the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and the second by California's Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
The three lawsuits were consolidated into a single case within the United States District Court for the Southern District of California by Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel. Oral arguments were heard in February 2018, and Curiel ruled by the end of the month in favor of the government, citing that the Department of Homeland Security has several waivers in its authorization to expedite construction of border walls, which includes bypassing the EIS statement. Curiel had written his opinion without consideration of the other political issues regarding the border wall, only ruling on the environment impact aspect. The ruling was challenged to the U.S. Supreme Court by the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund, but the Court denied their petition for writ of certiorari by December 2018, allowing Curiel's decision to stand.
About two-thirds of the U.S.–Mexico border runs along private or state-owned lands, and the federal government would need to acquire such land through purchase or seizure (eminent domain) to build any border wall. The "process is likely to cost the government millions and could take years of complex litigation," as was the case for preexisting border walls. In his budget request to Congress, Trump requested that the appropriation of funds for 20 U.S. Department of Justice lawyers "to pursue federal efforts to obtain the land and holdings necessary to secure the Southwest border." In 2017, the Trump administration also revived condemnation litigation against landowners that had been previously dormant for years.
- Johnson issued a report arguing that border walls were shown to be effective in curbing illegal immigration, citing a "99 percent" reduction in illegal immigration after Israeli built a 143-mile wall on the country's border with Egypt at a cost of $2.9 million per mile. Illegal immigration from Africa to Israel did significantly decrease after construction of the Israel-Egyptian wall, but [according to whom?] cautioned "against generalizing that the fence is the sole reason for the drop", noting that the U.S.–Mexico border (almost 2,000 miles) is much longer than the Israel–Egypt border fence (150 miles); that the terrain along U.S.–Mexico border has much more mountainous and remote than that the Israel–Egypt border; and that a 2012 Israeli law, unrelated to the border wall, had also affected illegal migration.
- In a video he can be heard to say: "I was able to scale it, climb it, and sit myself right here. It would be simple for me to jump into the United States, which shows that it is unnecessary and totally absurd to build a wall. It's easy, and it shows how unnecessary this project, this political rhetoric from Donald Trump, is".
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That includes $3.6 billion from unspent military construction money, $2.5 billion in unspent Pentagon counterdrug funds and $600 million from a Treasury Department asset forfeiture account. But the Defense Department has told lawmakers that only $85 million remains unspent in the counterdrug account, a House Appropriations spokesman said Thursday.
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