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Trump’s Wall – Maybe Illegal, Almost Certainly Impossible

By Staff Writer Alyssa Karbel ‘20

· Alyssa Karbel

Image from Wikimedia.

Trump’s push for a wall dates back to June 2015, when he announced his campaign, and promised Mexico would pay for a “great, great wall on our southern border.” This statement soon became a defining mantra of Trump’s campaign, for both him and his supporters; chants of “build that wall” often thundered throughout arenas and convention halls.

Meanwhile, those who opposed Trump (and even some of his supporters) questioned the purpose, legality, and feasibility of building the wall. As almost half of “illegal immigrants” are people who overstayed their Visas, many believe that increasing the regulations pertaining to these permits would be a more effective way to decrease the number of undocumented immigrants living in the United States than securing the U.S.-Mexican border would be. People also question not only whether it is possible for the United States to make Mexico pay for the wall, but also whether it is morally acceptable to do so.

All of these concerns remain valid today, as Trump attempts to forge ahead with his plan for the wall. There is also the simpler, less politically charged question: is building a wall even possible?

Currently, a rust-colored fence stretches about 60 miles along the Texas-Mexico border. However, the fence contains many gaps, and, in the locations where there aren’t gaps, immigrants can supposedly climb over certain sections of the boundary. This porous fence illuminates how topography, treaty obligations, property rights, and endangered species regulations might affect President Trump’s ability to construct his infamous wall.

Today, environmentalists claim Trump’s wall would hinder the movement of endangered species moving through their natural, cross-border habitats; they have threatened to file suit under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to stop the construction of the wall. Margie Kelly, a spokeswoman for the National Resources Defense Council, announced that the organization was prepared to use litigation as a tool in their advocacy work.  

Property rights also represent an obstacle to Trump’s plans. 1,000 miles of the new boundary would intersect private land. Although eminent domain gives the government the right to purchase private property for public use, this process necessitates costly financial settlements. Many property owners would act strategically, refusing early offers in the hopes of obtaining much higher bids, ones that far surpass the fair market value of their land. Needless to say, Trump’s wall will require the government to devote large sums of money in order to acquire land for the wall to be built on.

Therefore, perhaps the most pressing issue is cost. If successful, Trump’s wall would represent the largest infrastructure project in the United States since the U.S. highways system and the Erie Canal. Currently, estimates of the construction cost range from twelve to fifty billion dollars – the latter is over seventy times the price of the Hoover Dam. At a time when the government already faces a $19-plus trillion debt, many question whether such a large project is fiscally possible. Besides the exorbitant costs, history shows that building a wall requires a great amount of time and effort.

Another question reads: what materials would be used for construction? Knowing Trump wants a wall, Ali F. Rhuzkan, a New York-based engineer, assumes concrete will be the material of choice. Rhuzkan estimated that a 1,900-mile wall that ran five feet below ground and twenty feet above ground would require about 339 million cubic feet of concrete – three times more than the Hoover Dam. Recently, Trump’s projections for the desired height of the wall have risen to fifty-five feet. Either way, vast amounts of concrete will be required, and the production, staffing, and transportation costs involved would not be small.

Throughout President Trump’s campaign, many American citizens believed he thrived on empty promises; many, myself included, did not believe he would actually attempt to build a wall. However, just over a month into his presidency, many have reconsidered this belief – I know I have. Trump seems determined to follow through with his promise. Although there are certainly many obstacles to his plan, he has already passed some dramatic policies, so only time will tell what will become of his infamous wall.    

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