On Wednesday, President Trump will sign an executive order on the construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall—perhaps the central policy objective of his campaign. From the New York Times:
“Big day planned on NATIONAL SECURITY tomorrow,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter on Tuesday night. “Among many other things, we will build the wall!”
Mr. Trump will sign the executive order for the wall during an appearance at the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday, as Mexico’s foreign minister, Luis Videgaray, arrives in Washington to prepare for the visit of President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico. Mr. Peña Nieto will be among the first foreign leaders to meet the new president at the end of the month.
The executive order will designate already appropriated federal funding to the wall, but the Times noted that it was unclear from where that money would come. New funding, which the wall will obviously need, will be subject to congressional approval. “The Government Accountability Office has estimated that it could cost $6.5 million per mile to build a single-layer fence, and an additional $4.2 million per mile for roads and more fencing, according to congressional officials,” the Times reports.
But Trump has not promised a fence. He has promised a wall along about 1,000 miles of the nearly 2,000-mile-long U.S. Mexico border. It remains unclear, 19 months after the launch of his campaign, what the blueprints drawn up by federal engineers might ultimately look like—should they ever come into existence. Over the course of his campaign, Trump issued a range of claims, some purely rhetorical, putting the height of the wall at a minimum of 35 and perhaps more than 65 feet tall. In August he told Fox News the wall would be between 35 and 45 feet high. He has also estimated that the wall would cost between $8 billion and $12 billion dollars total. This is nonsense. If built with the kind of concrete Trump purchased from the Mafia in the 1980s and reinforced with steel, a 40 foot tall wall would cost nearly $35 billion according to the MIT Technology Review.
Of course Trump has also promised that Mexico and its taxpayers will ultimately reimburse the United States for the cost of the wall. The likelihood of this happening was best expressed by former Mexican President Vicente Fox earlier this month:
If the wall is built—imagine here an “if” roughly as tall as the wall itself—it will be an engineering undertaking without recent precedent in this country. There are nevertheless construction companies eager to take it on. In November, NPR’s Noel King interviewed Superior Concrete Products CEO Todd Sternfeld, who wrote a letter to Trump indicating his company would be ready to work on the wall.
STERNFELD: It would be about 250,000 truckloads of - you know the concrete trucks? It would be about 250,000 of those trucks just to make the product.
KING: Just to make the wall - plus tons and tons - literal tons of steel reinforcement bars. Todd says, no problem. He’s got a steel supplier. What’s the longest wall you’ve ever built?
STERNFELD: The longest wall that I’ve ever built was about four miles.
KING: Four miles, but the border wall is a thousand miles.
STERNFELD: I understand.
KING: But you think you could do it?
STERNFELD: Yeah, I think I could do it.