Wall or No Wall: President Trump’s Border Crisis
President Donald Trump has promised to build a “big, beautiful wall” along the Mexican-American border since the beginning of his presidential campaign. Building a border wall was one of the promises that got him to the White House. As his presidency has continued, chants of “build the wall” have turned into “finish the wall,” and Trump has made move after political move in order to continue construction.
But how much of the wall has been built, and has Trump stuck to his original promise?
Trump’s border wall has been a sticking point between Democrats and Republicans since the election. Some of the most talked-about legal fights against him have centered on wall construction, including land rights, environmental effects and home rule. But what progress has been made and what promises have been kept since he entered office? The issue has remained murky as Trump and the media clash on defining his promises and progress.
The President’s Initial Campaign Promise
When Donald Trump first launched his presidential campaign in June 2015, he immediately began by highlighting the issue of illegal immigration, especially the presence of Mexican immigrants in the country. He immediately promised to build a large, concrete border wall at least 30 feet tall that would span at least 1,000 miles of the border between Mexico and the U.S.
The remaining border would not need a wall, he said, due to natural barriers that exist along the border. The president argued that his real estate background made him the ideal candidate to accomplish this goal: “No one builds walls better than me.”
Who was going to pay for it?
President Trump insisted that the border wall cost would be shouldered by the Mexican government, not the American government. He claimed Mexico should cover the cost of the wall since the issue at hand was linked to the Mexican government.
When it became clear that a direct payment form Mexico for the new border wall seemed unlikely, the president argued that Mexico would pay for the wall through cutting off the ability for Mexican immigrants to send money back home.
“Build the wall,” became a common chant at his rallies, and despite starting out as an unlikely candidate, he soon surged in popularity among Republicans, eventually landing the Republican nomination. In November 2016, he was elected president, losing the popular vote but winning the Electoral College.
Trying to Start the Border Wall
Five days after taking office, President Trump signed presidential executive order 13767, which directed the American government to begin constructing his promised Rio Grande border wall. He attempted negotiations with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, but the Mexican president issued another public statement reaffirming that Mexico would not pay for the wall and cancelled the meeting.
President Trump Shifts His Stance
Since Mexico would not pay for the wall, the president requested a $3 billion budget for border security in the 2017 fiscal year budget session. He also shifted his language, promising instead that Mexico would “reimburse” the United States for the cost of the south border wall. He also began softening his stance on concrete, saying that using steel slats could ensure that the border wall is interactive and Border Patrol could monitor the other side.
Little progress was made on the proposed border wall until March 2018, when he received $1.6 billion toward building the wall. That funding covered 90 miles of the promised 1,000 miles of wall. At the end of December, clashes over wall funding shut down the government.
Government Shutdown and National Emergency
The government stayed shut down for 35 days, making it the longest government shutdown in American history. It reopened in January 2019 on the promise of continued negotiations for the border wall, but no promises for a specific dollar amount.
In February 2019, when Democrats refused to budge on the proposed border wall funding, the president declared a national emergency at the southern border. As a result, he had access to additional pools of money from Department of Defense (DOD), military construction accounts and more. Although both houses of Congress passed bills rejecting his declaration of a national emergency, he vetoed their bills and maintained the state of emergency.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have received just over $6 billion to date of the estimated $25 billion needed for both replacement and new border wall construction. Thus far, the administration has replaced 60 miles of barrier. However, no new wall has been built. Part of that is due to opposition from local leaders and environmental groups.
Opposition to Building the Wall
There has been significant pushback against the border wall cost and construction. Numerous citizen protests against the border wall have sprung up since Trump took office. Some anonymous protesters even constructed a wall around Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles.
However, along with citizen protests, numerous local and state governments, as well as environmental groups, have resisted Trump’s border wall. For example, a federal judge halted construction along the California and Arizona borders after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) brought a case on behalf of the Sierra Club, arguing that construction would impact the local environment and wildlife. Similar challenges halted construction along the Arizona-Texas border.
According to the New York Times, Trump has begun joking that aides should seize the land, build the wall and seek a pardon later in order to circumvent legal obstacles and make progress.
Part of the opposition to the border wall involves the cost of the border wall per mile, and the total estimated cost of the border wall. Based on current funding and construction, some statisticians estimate that the wall could cost as much as $25 million per mile to construct, which would balloon the total cost to as much as $70 billion.
The Recent Supreme Court Ruling
At the end of July, the Supreme Court gave the president the green light to use up to $2.5 billion in military funding to construct part of the border wall along a portion of the wall. Although the legal battle has not finished, the Supreme Court decision means the status of the border wall could change soon.
The ruling means groups like the Sierra Club may not be able to bring lawsuits against the construction of the border wall since they do not suffer personal damage. Although Trump has not finished his legal battles, the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling could be a key turning point in his battle to fulfill his campaign promise and build the wall.