What would it take to make good on Donald Trump’s campaign promise to build a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border?
An engineering and construction marvel. And a lot more money than your average backyard privacy hedge.
Start with the length of the border. The U.S. border with our southern neighbor stretches for 1,989 terrestrial miles from east Texas through California and ending at the Pacific Ocean’s shores.
Construction cost estimates peg a wall at anywhere from $7 billion to $10 billion, and upwards from there, but the Trump campaign insists the price of a wall would be a bargain compared to the financial burden on U.S. taxpayers from illegal immigration.
So what would this wall look like?
Trump hasn’t said how tall the wall would be. Nor has he said how thick it would be, nor how it would be patrolled. All of this is critical to calculating cost, obviously.
For comparison purposes, let’s look at the erstwhile Berlin Wall.
That structure, built in the early 1960s to keep Eastern Europeans from fleeing to Western Europe, was nearly 12 feet high, 4 feet wide – but a mere 23 miles in length.
Now, a number of engineering studies have taken a look at what it would take to build a similar structure along America’s southern border.
Those include a cnn.com video analysis, a Washington Post report, and U.S. News & World Report’s Debate Club – and more.
One of the most in-depth analyses was done by a New York City engineer writing under a pen name – Ali F. Rhuzkan. You can read the entire study on nationalmemo.com’s website.
But here are the salient features:
It would require more than 12.6 million cubic yards of concrete – based on 25-foot-tall, 10-foot-long and 8-inch-thick wall panels with a 6-foot foundation. Rhuzkan equates that amount of concrete to more than three times the amount used to build the Hoover Dam.
Or, placed in perspective, Rhuzkan wrote that “quantity of concrete could pave a one-lane road from New York to Los Angeles, going the long way around the Earth.”
Now, Rhuzkan, who says he does not speak to the press, is not a fan of Trump’s wall project, saying the Hoover Dam, “unlike Trump’s wall, has qualitative, verifiable economic benefits.”
So take that into consideration when reviewing Rhuzkan’s very detailed and extensive calculations and blueprint drawings.
Paying for the wall also seems pretty straightforward – or so it seems.
Trump’s campaign position papers delineate that he would force Mexico to pay for the wall by threatening to prevent up to $24 billion in remittance money transfers from Mexicans in the United States to Mexico as well as imposing trade tariffs, cancelling visas and charging visa fees.
All of these initiatives, he said, would be far more costly to Mexico than paying for the wall. Trump notes that Mexico’s economy can’t withstand the loss of billions of dollars in wire transfers and trade.
So, in fact, it’s a leverage play.
However, leverage can work both ways, critics of Trump’s plan have noted.
Sending Mexico’s economy into an immediate, spiraling decline could boost the number of people crossing the border – and actually drive up the number of undocumented people coming to America, and drive up the burden on U.S. taxpayers the wall is intended to ease.