The executive order President Donald Trump signed today to immediately begin planning to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border follows his signature campaign promise to stem the flow of illegal immigration and drugs into the country.
Details remain fuzzy on what ultimately might be built, though Trump repeatedly has insisted it will be “a wall, not a fence,” and he says he can get it done because “nobody builds walls better than me.”
Trump has said this barrier can be built for as low as $8 billion and has argued that Mexico will pay for it. An internal estimate by U.S. Customs and Border Protection for 700 miles of the 2,000-mile border pegs the cost at $15 billion to $20 billion, plus another $500 million to construct access roads.
Earlier this week, Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting published a detailed map of the current border fence. Former border officials also told us that existing sections of the current fence would benefit from upgrades and more modern materials. Large swaths of the land between the countries, they say, don’t need a barrier because of the remoteness, topography or dearth of illicit activity. Two top leaders of a Bipartisan Policy Center task force on immigration said this week that focusing on the incentives that draw undocumented workers is a more effective way to curb illegal immigration than a massive border wall.
Trump has talked about the wall from day one of his campaign, though the details have varied.
“We need a thousand” miles
Feb. 9, 2016
“The wall is probably $8 billion, which is a tiny fraction of the money that we lose with Mexico. … I’m very good at this.”
“Who is going to pay for the wall?” “Mexico!”
July 13, 2016
“They’ll be happy to pay for the wall.”
“The drugs are pouring into our country”
Dec. 9, 2016
“We will build the wall, and we will put an end to illegal immigration and stop the drugs from pouring into our country.”
“It’s not a fence. It’s a wall.”
Jan. 11, 2017
“I could wait about a year and a half until we finish our negotiations with Mexico, which we’ll start immediately after we get to office, but I don’t want to wait.”
“The wall is getting designed right now.”
Feb. 8, 2017
“The wall is getting designed right now. A lot of people say, oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall. I wasn’t kidding. I don’t kid. I don’t kid. I watch this, and they say I was kidding. No, I don’t kid. I don’t kid about things like that, I can tell you. No, we will have a wall. It will be a great wall, and it will do a lot of — will be a big help. Just ask Israel about walls. Do walls work? Just ask Israel. They work — if it’s properly done.”