So Donald Trump has told us he is going to build a physical barrier to illegal immigration. Tomorrow we’ll find out if that remains a pillar in his immigration plan. Finally some specifics? Or just another set of fungible platitudes … This should be a joy to watch.
At what cost? The Economist’s United States data analyst Wade Zhou has looked at the project. There is a wide range of estimates that reflects Trump’s characteristic lack of specifics on most any matter. At the lower end the bill is $15 billion with the potential for it being much, much more than that; other estimates are as much as $42 billion. It is $700 million for the concrete alone; the cement component is about $240 million. And if you use Trump’s characterization of the performance of governance, we should expect significant cost overruns. Even ignoring overruns, the cost is two to three times what Trump has claimed it will be.
If we average his sweeping descriptions of his structure, it will come in at about 40’ in height; much higher than any practical requirement unless he knows something we don’t know about migrant pole vaulting ability. That is higher than the Berlin Wall (about 12’) or the barrier along the West Bank (24’ in places). Yesterday, his pal Giuliani reduced expectations by saying it would be 35’; then again this is the guy who was unaware there were any terrorist attacks prior to the Obama Administration; a shoo-in as Donald’s Secretary of Homeland Security.
But this is about making a statement rather than stopping migration. At 1,000 miles long, with a substructure of some 7’ for foundational support and added defense against unsophisticated migrant tunnel engineers, you still have a structure that is penetrable and easily avoided. After all, it is not reactive. It is reliably stationary and will support 41’ ladders and scrappy climbers without fail. Or, migrants can use the method the Mongols used to conquer the Great Wall: go around it.
Of course this is a jobs project. But for what country? The single company that stands to benefit the most is a company called Cemex which provides concrete and cement products to industrial, commercial, residential, and municipal and many other sectors and operates in many countries including those on both sides of this border. Clearly if Trump believes he can force Mexico to pay for the wall, the contract and the jobs will be theirs to let; and imagine the labor pool of all those Trump deportees.