A Wall or a White Elephant?

Back in June 2017, the BBC did an excellent, in-depth and well-researched report about the problems associated with Trump’s proposed ‘big, beautiful wall’ that Mexico isn’t going to pay for.  It is worth visiting at this time, when Trump’s demands that his wall be funded have caused a partial shutdown of our government and have contributed to a tumbling stock market.  What is the reality about building the wall?  What is the likely cost?  What are some of the hurdles?

I want to share some of the more salient points, and you can read the entire report using the link (above). The report breaks it down into six areas:


1. The geography is pretty unfriendly

In fact, the actual border is, in many places, defined as the deepest channel of the river. Building a wall in the middle of the Rio Grande would be challenging for obvious reasons, but there are also legal issues. A treaty signed by Mexico and the US in 1889 prevents any disruption to the flow of the river, meaning any border wall would probably have to be built on its banks. This, again, presents obvious problems.

While two thirds of its length runs along rivers, the southern US border also bisects other challenging environments – desert in California and Arizona and mountains in New Mexico.

In eastern California, there are the Algodones – or Imperial Sand Dunes – the largest sand dune ecosystem in the US. There is already a section of “floating fence” here, specifically engineered to work with the shifting sands, installed by the George W Bush administration.sand dunesMeanwhile, Arizona and New Mexico are mountainous. Coronado National Forest, in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, has several 9,000-ft peaks.

A wall appears impossible here.border-1The US-Mexico border has a delicate ecosystem that could be disrupted by any new barrier. A wall would prevent animals reaching their hunting lands, water sources and migration corridors. Grey wolves and jaguars hunt on both sides of the border. Other cross-border populations of wildlife include bison, bighorn sheep, ocelots and bears.

2. The price tag will be rather huge

Mr Trump’s initial price tag of between $8bn and $12bn has been widely disputed.

The 650 miles of fencing built under President George W Bush cost an estimated $7bn, and it could not be described as fulfilling Mr Trump’s promises of a “tall, powerful, beautiful” barrier.

A number of very different estimates have been put forward by other official bodies.

wall cost

It should be noted that the costs in the Senate Democrats’ report are based on information provided by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP).

3. Actually building it is really difficult

In addition to the complex structural work, there is the surveying, land acquisition and access road-building.

Inviting companies to submit designs, the FedBizOpps.gov website stated the “cost-effective” structure must be made of reinforced concrete and:

Be “physically imposing in height”, towering at least 18ft above the border
Be impossible to breach with a ladder or grappling hooks and require at least an hour to breach with tools
Be sunk at least 6ft into the ground to prevent tunnelling
Blend in with the “surrounding environment” and be “aesthetically pleasing” from the north side
Include 25ft and 50ft gates for pedestrians and vehicles

However, the government, alongside its call for concrete wall designs, has asked for submissions for a “see-through component/capability” that “facilitates situational awareness”. This appears to suggest that the government is considering building out of materials other than concrete.

4. Trying to get hold of the land could be a nightmare

In order to build the wall, the government needs permission to use the land it stands on. However, about 66% of land along the US-Mexico border is either owned privately, by Native Americans or by individual states. In these cases, the government will need to coordinate mass voluntary sales of property or negotiate a right of way for the wall along large swaths of land.

Thousands of homeowners could be affected, including ranchers in Texas – among them Donald Trump supporters – who rely on access to the Rio Grande and pastures for their livestock. Trying to purchase this land could be a major challenge and if people refuse, the government would have to forcibly get hold of it.

Welcome to the term “eminent domain”. Eminent domain is a system used to gain ownership of private property for public use, such as for highways and railroads, usually accompanied by compensation. It has been used for the construction of border fences in the past.

Gerald S Dickinson, assistant professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh Law School, has warned that such eminent domain fights could take years.  Any federal eminent domain action on such a large scale against even a few landowners could trigger “decades of court disputes before anything is built”.

The proprietors of Tribal lands have already voiced firm opposition. The Tohono O’odham Nation owns much of such land, including a reservation that extends along 75 miles of the border in Arizona. Tribe members still live on both sides of the border, considering the territory their ancestral lands, and have indicated they will attempt to block construction if the wall goes ahead. Should that happen, Mr Trump would need a bill from Congress to acquire the land, which is currently protected under law.

5. It needs regular patrols to make it work

Homeland Security secretary, John F Kelly, has himself said that a “physical barrier will not do the job” and that you would have to back it up with patrolling human beings, sensors and observation devices.Tony-Estrada.png

“These people are coming from thousands and thousands of miles at great expense and in great danger. They have been victimised most of the way. Do you think a wall is gonna stop them? No, it’s just going to be another obstacle.” – Tony Estrada,Santa Cruz County Sheriff

6. U.S. and Mexican border towns rely on each other.  

Sealing off the border would also affect the economies of border towns and affect the wider US-Mexican economy – something many US politicians would be keen to avoid.

Communities along the US side of the border have developed close and dependant economic relationships with their sister cities in Mexico. Many Mexican towns are home to US factories employing thousands of people and Mexican shoppers spend billions of dollars in US border states every year.

The wall could also impact on the wider US-Mexico economic relationship too. Mexico is America’s second largest export market and America is Mexico’s largest.  The two countries have a “very deep” economic relationship, explains Christopher Wilson, deputy director of the Mexico Institute at the think-tank the Wilson Center, with five million US jobs depending on it. The Wilson Center’s research suggests that if trade between the US and Mexico were halted, 4.9 million Americans would be out of work.

The two economies are now so interconnected, Mr Wilson says, that they no longer just sell finished products to each other, but instead “actually build products together”.


The facts, I believe, speak for themselves and Trump’s dream of a ‘big, beautiful wall’ is more aptly a white elephant.  The scheme is reckless and irresponsible and should not have been allowed to shut down parts of the federal government, putting over 300,000 people out of work and causing another 400,000 to be forced to work without pay.  Unconscionable.  white_elephant

26 thoughts on “A Wall or a White Elephant?

  1. I wanted to make a comment on this blog post from late December as I just found a Youtube video that you and your readers might be interested in.

    I wonder why the media isn’t telling the stories of people who are separated from their children permanently because they were killed by illegal immigrants? Why are the voices of these people not heard, why are they marginalized by politically driven silence from a mainstream media machine who is so blind with hatred for the president that, if he were to be assasinated in the street tomorrow, they would dance and shout with glee and joy?

    Watch this video and ask yourself that question.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exMwYM0KEMY &feature=youtu.be

    Liked by 1 person

    • Facts, my friend … facts. The fact is that far fewer people are murdered in this country by immigrants or Middle-Eastern terrorists than are murdered by homegrown U.S. citizens. FAR more. Murders by immigrants are rare, and of children, even rarer. I will soon do a post on this, since there are so many lies and misconceptions going around. Truth be told, I would rather face an immigrant, whether Latino or Middle-Eastern, than a white man in a dark alley. White men tend to carry guns … immigrants rarely do. As I said, I will do a post with some facts on this topic before long.

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  2. Pingback: Another WTF Moment … | Filosofa's Word

    • Actually, I don’t take anything that either Jeanine Pirro or Sebastian Gorka say with more than a grain of salt. And I don’t do Fox News, for it is as good as state-run television. But to address your point, yes, Democrats DO care about immigrants. Let me just tell you my thought here, and without being contentious, for I far prefer reasoned dialog. The immigrants coming into our country from Mexico and Central America are coming fleeing situations that put them and their families in serious danger. Some are coming because they could not protect nor feed their families and they are hoping for a better life for their children. Do we care? Absolutely we do! Americans have become complacent and arrogant if they are not willing to lend a helping hand to somebody in need. Americans who are only open to immigrants from European nations are, quite frankly, white supremacists. I can speak only for myself, but frankly, the way I see it, an American life has no more value than a Syrian life, a Honduran life, an Iraqi life or a Mexican life. None. We are all part of the human race and if we cannot even offer compassion and empathy to our fellow humans, then what are we worth? Not much.

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      • Jill, what is still underreported are two points. The wall is a $60 Billion issue not $5. $30 Billion to build and $30 Billion to maintain. This comes from an engineer who mapped out some numbers during the campaign for John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight when Trump started at $2 Billion and kept adding numbers until he stopped around $10 Billion. But, what the engineer said about maintaining the wall is important. It will deteriorate and will be breached. These estimates have stood up well to other estimates.

        The other thing is Trump had agreed to a bipartisan deal DACA for the wall earlier this year with Senators Graham and Durbin. They agreed in the morning and the Senators were on the way to the White House to confirm. In the interim, Senator Cotton, Stephen Miller and others got in Trump’s ear and he reneged knifing Graham and Durbin in the back. This is the absence of good faith dealings that make Trump so untrustworthy. This was the day he denied saying “s**thole countries, which Graham confirmed he did.

        I am not a fan of fear mongering. The immigration issues need to be dealt with setting the BS aside. I am also not a fan of people who do not deal in good faith. People want to win a PR battle, not solve a problem. That is for both sides, but is heavily tilted to my former GOP party who deals less with facts and more with rhetoric. That is a key reason I left the party ten years ago to become an Independent. It is far worse now with the mercurial and untruthful President and sycophantic news network. People should start from the position that the President is being untruthful in anything he says as the odds are in their favor. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

        • You make excellent points, my friend … thank you! You are correct in all you say, but the question is how do we get the 40% or so who still fall prey to Trump’s rhetoric understand? Is it even possible to get through to them? His lies are so well-documented that there can be no doubt in the mind of any that he is not an honest man, not a man with integrity, yet it seems not to matter to his followers. What does it take?

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  3. A very informative and interesting post. Today’s tweets from the Twitter Master includes drawings of his proposed wall, the same wall that he promised “Mexico will pay for, believe me!” The problem being, Mexico won’t. American taxpayers are expected to pay for this wall, which according to his tweet is now a “Steel Slat Barrier which is totally effective while at the same time beautiful.” A series of steel slats with spikes on top is not my idea of beautiful, no matter which side of this barrier/wall you reside on. The idea that steel slats with spikes on top will accomplish anything, other than the loss of billions of dollars, is beyond believable. This “Barrier” is nothing more than Trump’s Fool’s Errand! Thank-you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The very first time he said that Mexico would pay for the wall, I said, “Why would they do that? They don’t want the wall, and thus they won’t pay for it and the U.S. has no means of making them do so.” I said that on my blog, I said it to any who would listen, but did his base listen? Nope. And they are still not listening. It is, as you said, a fool’s errand … proposed by a fool. And look what he is costing this country now with the shutdown because he is a fool. I say we have a new election in February, since he bought and cheated his way into the White House, and thus is not a legitimate president.

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  4. Jill, good post. Two adds. The new Chief of Staff said in 2015 that building a wall was an overly simplistic idea that won’t solve much. Also, the cost must factor in maintaining the wall. John Oliver had an engineer estimate the cost to build it during the election. He came up with about $25 – $3o billion. The engineer also said you need the same amount to maintain it. So, I used the top end and said the wall will cost $60 billion to build and maintain. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • At the very least! What most of the estimates fail to consider is the purchase of the land, and the potential court battles with those who don’t wish to sell their land for such a purpose. And one other thing that wasn’t mentioned in the article I referenced was environmental impact studies and any solutions to environmental problems that become necessary. And you and I both know that any project will run into a few glitches that will cost money. Overall, I’m thinking the $70 billion may even be lowball when all is said and done. But I think … I hope … that the Congress won’t cave to his wishes on this one, for it may well bankrupt this nation!

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  5. I don’t think it actually matters to Trump whether ‘The Wall’ works, just as long as he can show he wanted it , he got it, or he promised it and made good on his promise.Once completed the country would be in so much debt they couldn’t afford to spend another cent on it.
    Cwtch

    Liked by 3 people

    • It’s definitely a tangible way to show he’s “doing something” about illegal immigration and I agree he may not give a damn about whether it works. As far as going into debt over this, the highest estimate Jill lists is $70 billion. We are now routinely running federal deficits over $1 trillion so if we want to get it done it would be inexpensive in the greater scheme of things.

      Liked by 2 people

      • One thing that is rarely mentioned is the fact that illegal immigration along the southern border is at its lowest levels ever … has been decreasing in volume for years … and is not anywhere near the problem that Trump and his minions claim it is. PLUS … many of those “illegal” immigrants are the ones that keep our agricultural economy afloat, for they are willing to pick fruit and do other farm jobs that others in this nation think is beneath them. There are just so many aspects to this that Trump and his supporters do NOT understand … they should have to do some research before they are allowed to open their mouths.

        Liked by 1 person

    • You hit that nail on the head. It’s an ego trip for him, nothing more. The $5 billion he’s asking now is only a small portion of what the wall will cost. According to my calculations, just that $5 billion will cost every man, women and child in this nation $15.15 For that $15.15, I can buy 3 pounds of ground beef, a pack of buns, some pasta and a few potatoes, thus I can feed my family 3 relatively healthy meals. Feeding my family 3 healthy meals is a lot more important that that damn useless wall. Yes, he would bankrupt this nation for his wall, and has already shut it down, causing some 700,000 to lose their paychecks for the foreseeable future … 3 days before Christmas. What a gem, eh? Sigh.
      Cwtch

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  6. As an outsider looking in. It’s just seems madness. Walls have never worked. They always come down or fall into ruin. They are a failed relic of a bygone era. I could almost understand a standoff on tax policy or healthcare or national debt levels or austerity. But not over a wall.. Thats just plain stupid. But in the UK the stupid is now the norm.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Reblogged this on Scotties Toy Box and commented:
    A wonderful break down of the border wall situation. I would add also that history will remember any attempt at the border wall as tRumps folly. The interesting thing is illegal crossing of the southern border has been declining for 2 decades. A large reason for that is the economic situation in Mexico has greatly improved due to the trade agreements we have with them. Most illegal immigrants are people who come in on a visa and overstay that visa. They don’t leave when the visa ends. Also the northern border has far more illegal crossings and is a far less regulated and controlled border. Yet no outcry from the tRump admin? Could it be because most of the northern border crossers are thought to be of that valued white skin? A white origin? Every reasonable essay on the current immigration policies of the tRump administration clearly shows it is bigotry / racist driven. Hugs

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    • You are so right on all counts, my friend! First, Trump doesn’t deal in facts … facts bore him and he thinks he knows much more than those experts who determine the facts. Remember, he is a “stable genius” who listens to his “gut” … there’s enough of it that his gut must speak quite loudly sometimes. Second, he is a racist through and through. Yes, part of his issue with Latino immigrants is that their skin is darker than his. Why do you think so many people criticized Obama’s every move? Because he was black. Sigh. We’re never going to get out of this rut as long as we allow blatant racism to guide our national policies. Many thanks for the re-blog!!! Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. You know and I know and (I presume) your readers know that tRumpsky hasn’t a clue. The ONLY reason he’s pushing “the wall” is to keep from (outwardly) going back on his campaign promise and thus losing his “devoted” followers.

    And the really sad part … even if all this information was made available to him, he wouldn’t (couldn’t?) read it so he would remain the ignoramus he is.

    BTW, you might find this article (from Fox News yet!) on “the wall” rather interesting.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Very interesting that Fox published that article! The accompanying video was ‘unavailable’ when I went there … I wonder if Donnie made them take it down? But to the point, yes, those of us with that IQ higher than 45 know this is naught but a game to make him appear tough and strong to his poor base (IQ under 45), and you’re quite right that he couldn’t read this, and even if somebody read it to him, he would swear he knows more than all the experts. Did you hear that clip of him on Don Lemon’s video saying he knew so much more about ISIS than even the generals? B.S. Sigh.

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