President Trump: The Lone Border Wall Ranger
Ten months into his Presidency, Donald Trump is still insisting he will build a wall along the 2,000 mile U.S.-Mexico border, going so far as to order prototypes that are on display near San Diego, California.1 Yet as he trudges along with supposed construction plans, he hasn’t even convinced his own party to support the endeavor. A recent survey found that less than 25% of Congressional Republicans are willing to openly support funding for a border wall.2 Most offices on the Hill seem to be operating under an “ignore and hope it goes away” strategy, and not a single one of the three Republican House Members in the nine districts along the border are in favor of a wall. Here’s what members of President Trump’s own party have to say about the wall.
1. A 2000 Mile Long Border Wall Won’t Work
Building a wall spanning the entire length of the border won’t solve our country’s immigration issues, and Congressional Republicans know it. Especially because we’ve already erected about 700 miles of barriers along the Southern Border, covering the areas that are the heaviest trafficked.3 And even Republicans who want border security increases agree that a wall isn’t the answer.
- Republican Congressman Will Hurd (TX 23rd), whose district runs eight hundred miles along the Rio Grande—making up one-third of the Southern border—has not only described building a wall in his district as “impossible,” he’s repeatedly stated it won’t work. He argues that building a wall is an archaic approach to border security. “People that are dealing with this issue know that a 3rd century solution to a 21st century problem is not going to fix this long-term.”4
- Fellow Republican Representative Martha McSally (AZ 2nd), one of two Members on the Arizona-Mexico border, is also skeptical that a wall will have any effect on border security or migration into the U.S., and along with Congressman Hurd, she pushed back on the Department of Homeland Security’s request for border wall funding.5 On whether or not Trump’s border wall would work, she said,“They will go over, through or under physical barriers, sometimes pretty quickly.”6
- Republican Senator Jeff Flake (AZ), representing one of the four border states in the Senate, similarly stated that those most familiar with the border don’t think a wall is a real solution to our immigration challenges. “This notion of a 2,000-mile wall has always been just — for anybody who spends time on the border — just a bit, you know, out there.”7
- While he seems to be warming somewhat to the idea by including funding for physical barriers in a border security bill, Republican Senator John Cornyn (TX) has also made some pretty damning arguments against the efficacy of a border wall. In February he admitted,“There's parts of our border which it makes absolutely no sense.”8
2. A Border Wall is a Massive Waste of Money
Trump’s border wall would also be ludicrously expensive. Walling in the remaining unfenced areas of the border would be significantly more expensive than the cost of building the existing barriers. The unfenced areas tend to be in remote regions where fewer crossings happen, and where the costs of transporting materials and construction crews will be dramatically higher. Moreover, much of the unfenced border is located along the Rio Grande River in Texas, meaning that there is already a natural barrier. Moreover, the vast majority of the land is privately owned, and the federal government would have to seize much of the land from citizens using eminent domain—and pay for it (for more on the practical impossibilities of the wall, read our memo on the State of the Southern Border).9
In total, estimates are as high as $67 billion dollars to build President Trump’s border wall.10 And Congress hasn’t even come close to allocating that vast sum of federal money. The most recent piece of legislation to include funding for barriers on the border contained just $1.6 billion.11 Republican Members of Congress, especially those from border regions, are painfully aware of just how much American taxpayers would have to pay for something that won’t solve a single one of our immigration problems.
- Republican Congressman Steve Pearce (NM 2nd), whose district encompasses the entirety of the Mexican border in New Mexico, was especially clear about his unwillingness to pour taxpayer dollars into a border wall. “We’ve been pretty straightforward with Trump that there are better ways to secure the border than this long, expensive wall.”12
- In addition to thinking that a wall is an antiquated means of border security, Congressman Hurd has publicly questioned the cost of constructing such an ineffective barrier. “I’ve made it clear time and time again that building a physical wall from sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to secure the border.”13
- Crucial swing votes in the Senate are especially skeptical of allocating billions of dollars for the wall. Take Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK), “If you're going to spend that kind of money, you're going to have to show me where you're going to get that money."14
- And no one in Congress believes for a second that Mexico will pay for the wall. As Republican Senator John McCain (AZ) bluntly put it when asked about Mexico funding the project, “No. It’s not a viable option.”15
The overwhelming majority of policymakers in President Trump’s own party are either hesitant about or outright opposed to building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. This should surprise no one. Those even remotely familiar with immigration and border security know that a wall won’t solve the immigration challenges the nation faces. Instead of wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on a boondoggle, Congress should address the real problems in our broken immigration system.