Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has commissioned a study on the costs to build President Trump's border wall with Mexico, Reuters reports, and the group has already come up with a ballpark figure for building fences and walls along the entire border: $21.6 billion. That's significantly higher than the $12 billion Trump estimated in his campaign, and the approximately $15 billion touted by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Trump says U.S. taxpayers will foot the bill and Mexico will reimburse America; Mexico has no plans to do so.
The report, which Reuters saw on Thursday, has not yet been presented to Kelly, and the Trump administration may not follow its recommendations. Its price tag is closer to the $25 billion cost estimate from investment research group Bernstein Research.
The Trump White House has already started planning to build the wall, with the expectation that Congress will approve funding in April or May. DHS has reportedly begun seeking environmental waivers to build in some sensitive parts of the border, worked up steel orders, and reached out to existing contractors. The report envisions three phases, starting with a $360 million section near San Diego, El Paso, and in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. The next phase would tackle 151 miles around the Rio Grande Valley, Laredo, Big Bend National Park, and Tucson; and the final phase would cover the last 1,080 miles of border. The wall would be finished by 2020, according to the plan.
Along with the costs of materials, road building, and labor, the government would have to expend millions using eminent domain to acquire private land along the border, and some areas would present costly geographical challenges. Peter Weber
Texas has the longest U.S. border with Mexico. Zero of its 38 members of Congress support Trump's wall.
Texas sends 38 lawmakers to Congress — 36 House members and two senators — and 25 of them are Republican. None of them are willing to endorse President Trump's plan for a gulf-to-sea border wall. Not all of Texas' congressional delegation necessarily opposes the wall, but when The Texas Tribune asked about Trump's signature policy issue a few weeks ago, none would go on record as thinking it is a good idea.
Many of them were in favor of erecting barriers in some sections of the border, adding Border Patrol officers, and using surveillance technology, but Sens. John Cornyn (R) and Ted Cruz (R) only backed completing the last 50 miles of 700 miles of border fencing approved by Congress in 2006, most of it in Arizona. Others fretted about using eminent domain to seize land from ranchers, often family land passed down for generations.
Rep. Will Hurd (R), whose competitive House district spans 800 miles of border, from San Antonio to right outside El Paso, released a stronger statement on Wednesday. "Building a wall is the most expensive and least effective way to secure the border," he said. "Big Bend National Park and many areas in my district are perfect examples of where a wall is unnecessary and would negatively impact the environment, private property rights, and economy," Hurd said, adding that it would be "impossible" to build a wall in some sections of his district. Peter Weber
When President Trump signed his executive order on Wednesday to start construction on his border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, one of the big questions was where the money will come from. Trump has long promised he will somehow get Mexico to pay for building the wall, though he has recently switched to promising Mexico will reimburse U.S. taxpayers. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto reiterated on Wednesday that Mexico will do no such thing. On MSNBC Wednesday evening, House Speaker Paul Ryan said taxpayers will foot the bill, at least for now, and agreed it will cost them billions.
"Well, first off, we're going to pay for it and front the money up," he told Greta Van Susteren. "There are a lot of different ways of getting Mexico to contribute to doing this, and there are different ways to defining how exactly they pay for it. Point is, he has a promise he made to the American people, which is to secure our border — a wall is a big part of that. We agree with that goal, and we will be working with him to finance construction of the physical barrier, including the wall, on the southern border."
"The law is already on the books — I voted for it like 10 years ago — but nothing has gotten done, and now we have a president who actually wants to secure the border," Ryan said. "I think a lot of people want to secure the border, on both sides of the aisles," Van Susteren said, "but the estimates are $8 billion to $14 billion..." "That's about right," Ryan agreed.
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) January 26, 2017
The 2006 law Ryan is referring to, the Secure Fence Act, authorized the construction of 700 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, and the Bush and Obama administrations built along 652 of those miles; Congress would not only have to appropriate the money — an independent study estimated the cost at up to $25 billion — but also authorize construction of more barriers. The U.S. has already spent more than $7 billion on border fencing, and not only will a new wall add significantly to those costs, the roads built to construct the wall may well help drug and human traffickers experts say will find ways to circumvent any wall, anyway. Peter Weber