Share every sharing options for: just how Donald Trump can actually construct the wall surface — and who would certainly pay the price


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A Mexican young reaches his arm with the border fence in mountain Ysidro, CA in 2016. Sandy Huffaker/AFP via Getty
Donald trump promised the American civilization he would build a “big, beautiful wall” follow me the US-Mexico border. At campaign rallies, it became a call and also response. In a the majority of ways, it came to be a joke. To some, it came to be a taunt in ~ high college basketball games, a means to make clear some kinds of people aren’t welcome here. Most of all, the wall was easily the many identifiable campaign promise of any type of candidate in the 2016 choice cycle — maybe of any type of candidate in a generation.

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Now the Trump is president, the promise is coming due.

The Trump administration now wants to view the wall surface built. They are absolutely serious about it. Also though it shed the first round that the funding battle in Congress, once legislators refused to give the administration billions of dollars over the summer, it’s requesting $1.6 exchange rate in wall surface funding in the 2018 budget. And also the department of Homeland defense is reviewing propose to build prototypes — 30-foot-long segment at the very least 18 feet high — somewhere approximately San Diego.

How far the wall goes from symbol to reality is anyone’s guess. There space a ton of obstacles in the way: physical, legal, financial, operational. And also at every step, the Trump administration will need to plot a path in between the symbolic fantasy of the wall and the small, mundane, human realities the the world living on the border.

1) Why carry out we need a wall?

Before he to be elected, Trump favored to say the the US nearly “doesn’t have a border.” Unsurprisingly, he to be not specifically telling the truth.

According to the federal government Accountability Office, there space 651.7 miles of fencing along the US-Mexico border. The very first fencing was built in the 1990s, follow me the westernmost sector of the border (known together the san Diego Sector). However the current fencing routine is greatly the product of the 2006 secure Fence Act, i beg your pardon passed through overwhelming bipartisan assistance (backed by then-Sen. Hillary Clinton and also Sen. Lining Schumer) and which forced 650 miles of fencing along specific areas that the border.

There’s some evidence that fencing has been efficient — or, at least, that it’s been part of a more comprehensive strategy the bulking increase border security that’s to be effective.

The government approximates how many human being are crossing the US-Mexico border by looking at how plenty of are caught — and also by that measure, the flow of unauthorized people into the us in 2016 was one-quarter of what it remained in 2000.

In the mountain Diego sector, in certain — where the border cuts with an city area and also it could be basic for world to slip by unnoticed — stepped-up enforcement in the 1990s led to much more apprehensions at an initial (as more people got caught), and then under apprehensions as world stopped trying.

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congressional Research organization The question is even if it is it’s enough.

Securing the border has actually historically to be a policy argument, about what varieties of fencing are many effective, most cost-effective, and also most valuable to Border Patrol agents.

Even prior to Trump, there was a years-long legislature debate about whether that the best kind of fencing. The hasn’t to be an argument around politics or symbolism. Until now.

The for sure Fence Act originally specified double-layer fencing, which is much more expensive to construct but additionally much harder come cut and cross through. Today, a fraction of the 650 miles of fencing count together “double layer.”

Less than half of the existing fencing is thick sufficient to avoid pedestrians from cross (the remainder is “vehicle fencing” that can’t be driven through however can it is in navigated top top foot). And even “pedestrian fencing” isn’t always effective: The shortest apprehension rate along the whole US-Mexico border, where only an estimated 17 percent that border crossers room caught, is the sections of the El Paso sector that room “completely covered” by pedestrian fencing built in the previous 10 years.

When George W. Bush’s room of Homeland protection said that dual fencing wasn’t feasible for huge swaths the the southerly border, the certain Fence Act was amended in 2007 to give the government more authority to identify what counted as a sufficient fence. To numerous Republicans, though, the seemed favor a cop-out, and they’ve invested years accusing the government of not having finished the job right.

Regardless of how wildly inaccurate Donald trump card was around the state of border security, a many people think he’s exactly — including the main point supporters that made him a force to be reckoned v in the 2016 Republican presidential primary. Those voters space either unaware that there’s at this time a fence or merely don’t believe a fence is enough. They want something absolutely foolproof and also impregnable, or at the very least a symbol against attack.

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A breach in the border fence in san Ysidro, CA in 2008. Don Bartletti/Los Angeles time via Getty The Trump management is already struggling come reconcile its wild promises of a “big, beautiful wall” through the existing plan reality. As soon as DHS inquiry for wall surface prototypes, it originally specified the the wall surface had to it is in concrete, i m sorry would have actually been incredibly unlikely come fly through Border Patrol agents, who favor something they can see v — climate hastily included a separate request because that non-concrete “alternative” materials.

White house press secretary Sean Spicer bragged the the capital bill passed by congress in might will permit the federal government to develop fencing — and got right into an debate with a Breitbart reporter during a push briefing when the reporter pointed out those fences weren’t a wall.

Building a concrete wall surface — something that no one within federal government has asked for — would be an ext symbolic 보다 practical. However simply building an ext fencing, and also calling the a “wall,” would be, in a far-reaching way, cheating.

2) just how realistic is the to construct one constant wall across the border?

Not also a tiny bit.

As Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) said during a Senate hearing on border security, “There has actually been nobody that has actually come prior to this body arguing that we need to build a concrete wall surface across the border — no one. No one person, no matter what political persuasion.”

Selling the wall surface in Congress will be tough, in various other words. However that’s nothing compared to the handy realities the trying come actually construct it.

For one thing, you have the Rio Grande, which specifies the easternmost 1,164 mile of the border. There’s part fencing (if just a little) in each of the 4 border “sectors” follow me the Rio Grande; much of the is set back from the river, forcing world to turn back after entering united state territory rather of avoiding their entry to begin with.

It’s not enough to prevent world from cross — much more than half of all unauthorized entries native 2013 come 2015 happened in the four easternmost Border Patrol sectors, all of which are entirely on the Rio Grande. However it provides fencing building and construction tricky.

But the real trouble is the canyons.

See more: How Far Is Baja California From San Diego To Baja California Sur

“If girlfriend look the end in huge Bend,” says Chris Cabrera, deputy spokesperson for the nationwide Border Patrol Council, the union representing us Border Patrol agents, “you have substantial drop-offs, huge cliffs. It would certainly be very difficult to build a wall surface over there, especially when she looking at about a 40-, 50-foot drop native ground level to the river.”

Cabrera — and everyone rather — look at border defense as a three-pronged effort: infrastructure, i beg your pardon includes obstacles to keep human being from crossing; surveillance, to educate agents when people are crossing; and also personnel, to record people trying come cross.

There’s no magic ratio of the three that provides for appropriate security; given the astounding variety of terrain along the border, and the variety of supplies to which humans have actually put that is land, what’s many needed counts on where it’s going to be placed.