Trump’s campaign rhetoric and promise to build a wall along the southern border of the US with Mexico and clear commitment to seeing it through early in his presidency is one thing, but the reality of building it is another. The first big hurdle is cost, since it seems abundantly clear that Mexico is not going to pony up the $15 – $25 billion it will likely cost to build the wall. Trump has since hinted at hitting Mexico with an import tariff as a means to pay for the wall, but even members of his own party are very concerned about interrupted free trade between the two nations and instigating a possible trade war that would harm both major North American economies.
There is of course the solution of having the American tax payer shoulder the bill, but that threatens to show him reneging on his promise to have Mexico pay for the wall. It also puts the party that champions fiscal conservatism in the position of having to spend a large sum of money on a very controversial project that many believe will not do much to address the issue of illegal immigration.
That segues into the next point, that many leaders do not share Trump’s enthusiasm for the wall, including the person whose job it was to patrol the southern border for the past 3 years.
Kerlikowske pointed to the rugged terrain in the Arizona desert and the shifting Rio Grande River in Texas (which routinely changes depth and direction), as major natural obstacles to building a border wall. Also, a significant amount of the land along the border in the Rio Grande Valley is privately owned and those land owners are not very keen on the prospect of having a giant concrete wall on their property.
Furthermore, Kerlikowske said, the vast majority of people trying to enter the US are actually showing up at border entry points and seeking asylum or turning themselves in. This notion that most are scaling the fence in the dead of night is a vast misrepresentation of what is really occurring. Even if a wall were built, it would require a significant increase in hiring of border patrol agents to monitor and guard the wall.
Kerlikowske added that, in addition to approximately 700 miles of fencing already in place, the border is currently patrolled by agents on foot, bicycles, motorcycles, ATVs and horseback. There’s also an air patrol, unmanned predator drones, ground sensor technology, infrared video and long range tower-mounted video with a range of 25 miles. Kerlikowske stated that this is all preferable to a wall that cannot be realistically guarded along its 1983 miles.
Another major challenge to the wall is its impact on wildlife, as it would severely threaten 111 endangered species. Among these species some of the most notable ones are the Jaguar, Gray Wolf, Sea Turtle, West Indian Manatee, and Bald Eagle. Trump’s assault on the EPA clearly signals his likely lack of any concern for wildlife, but environmentalists and conservationists are likely to file suit against the government if/when wall construction becomes imminent.