Atlanta, GA – Republicans have recently proposed restarting construction on the unfinished border wall that former President Donald Trump championed during his term in office. As the debate on the wall’s effectiveness continues, it is essential to examine the details of its construction, funding, and impact on border security.
The Extent of Border Wall Construction:
At a recent CNN town hall, President Trump claimed that his administration completed building a wall along the 1,954-mile U.S.-Mexico border.
However, according to Customs and Border Protection report approximately 458 miles of the wall were completed under his administration, with another 280 miles identified for construction but left unfinished. Of those 458 miles, just 52 covered sections of the border that hadn’t previously had a barrier. The other 406 replaced shorter barriers that already existed with a fence made of reinforced hollow steel bollards ranging from 18 to 33 feet high.
In some sections, lights, cameras, and sensors accompanied the new barriers; in others, a secondary fence was built to reinforce an existing one.
The project cost an estimated $15 billion, with the money coming from Department of Defense funds and appropriations from Congress. Combined with fencing that pre-dated Trump’s presidency, about 700 miles — mostly along public land in Arizona and New Mexico — now have a barrier. In May, House Republicans passed an immigration bill calling for resuming construction.
Funding and Cost:
The border wall construction came at a substantial cost of an estimated $15 billion. The funds were derived from Department of Defense allocations and congressional appropriations. However, the diversion of money from the Defense Department budget led to a government shutdown after Congress refused to meet the administration’s funding demands, sparking further controversy.
"Among them: an order to immediately halt construction on former President Donald Trump’s signature border wall," as reported by U.S. News.
"Trump’s signature promise to build a barrier along the southwest border of the U.S. propelled him to victory in 2016, and his administration during his term appropriated some $15 billion for its construction – a big chunk of which was taken from the Defense Department’s budget after Congress refused to meet the administration’s funding demands, prompting a lengthy government shutdown," according to U.S. News.
Controversies and Biden’s Decision:
Upon assuming office, President Joe Biden swiftly fulfilled a campaign promise by ordering an immediate halt to further construction on the border wall. The wall had been a subject of fierce criticism from environmentalists and Democrats, and it faced multiple lawsuits challenging its construction and funding.
“Just hours after President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, he signed a handful of executive orders fulfilling campaign promises and signaling the priorities of his fledgling administration,” according to U.S. News.
Defining the “New” Wall:
President Trump argued that the replacement of existing structures at the border should be considered a new wall, despite most of the 452 miles being constructed where some form of barrier already existed. Only 80 miles of new barriers were built where there were previously none, including 47 miles of primary wall and 33 miles of secondary wall to reinforce existing barriers.
“President Trump has argued that this should be regarded as new wall, because it’s replacing what he called ‘old and worthless barriers,'” according to the BBC.
Border Security and Future Implications:
The effectiveness of the border wall in addressing illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and other security concerns has been a subject of ongoing debate. With President Biden’s decision to halt construction, the future implications for border security and immigration policies remain uncertain. The remaining sections of the border without a barrier pose challenges and considerations for future construction or enhancement.
“Various types of fencing totaling 654 miles (just over 1,000 km) were already in place before Mr. Trump became president in 2017,” as reported by BBC.
Role of U.S. Customs and Border Protection:
U.S. Customs and Border Protection compiled final figures about the border wall construction, providing essential data for evaluating its impact. The portrayal of the wall by different administrations has shaped public perception and raised questions about its efficacy.
"Before Biden stopped new construction on the wall, the Trump administration had built 458 miles of what it dubbed 'border wall system,' according to final figures compiled by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and provided to U.S. News," reported U.S. News.
Addressing Border Security Challenges:
Experts and stakeholders offer diverse opinions and perspectives on the long-term effectiveness of the border wall. Comprehensive solutions to border security issues require careful examination of alternatives to the border wall approach and addressing complexities associated with immigration policies.
"The vast majority of the 458 miles were constructed in places where some kind of barrier already existed, but most of the preexisting structures were far less imposing than the new wall and included fencing and rudimentary technical barriers. The total figure also includes what the agency calls 'secondary border wall' or sections of wall built behind preexisting barriers that ultimately remained in place," as reported by U.S. News.
As the border wall debate continues, policymakers, experts, and the public must critically assess its effectiveness, implications, and potential alternatives to find lasting solutions to border security challenges. The decisions made today will have far-reaching effects on the nation’s immigration policies and overall security.