Donald Trump’s administration has yet to begin construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, nor has it yet convinced Congress—much less Mexico—to pay for one. Trump is nonetheless engaging in a dogged effort to persuade his voters that he is, in fact, well on his way to following through on his endlessly repeated campaign promise to build a Mexico-financed border wall.
First, he announced proudly during his February address to Congress that construction of the wall would begin not only soon, but “ahead of schedule,” despite there being no funding or plan for building one and thus no schedule. Then he tweeted in April that Mexico would “eventually” pay for the wall, but that the U.S. was going to pay for it first so that the project could get started “early,” which, again, is a temporal-relational description with no basis in reality. Now—with Republicans in Congress having just agreed to a budget bill that does not include any funding for the construction of a border wall—Trump has declared that the budget’s funding for upgrades to existing border fencing in fact constitutes a “down payment” on his master plan.
The president discussed the concept during remarks at the White House on Tuesday, asserting that the budget includes “enough money to make a down payment on the border wall,” language which echoed press secretary Sean Spicer’s earlier claim that the administration is making a “down payment on border security.” Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney went into more detail at a White House press conference later Tuesday about just what that “down payment” constitutes:
There are no bricks and mortar, there are no bricks and mortar for a wall, yes, [but] there are several hundreds of millions of dollars for us to replace cyclone fencing with 20-foot high steel wall.
You can see Mulvaney comparing the steel “wall” to the cyclone fencing above. Added the OMB chief later in his press conference:
This is what’s going to be put in as a result of this bill. That is better border security. You can call it new wall. You can call it replacement. Call it whatever you want to. The president’s prior was to secure the southern border and that’s what this does.
In response to a reporter’s question, Mulvaney said he did not know how many miles of the steel “wall” were being funded. But information about the budget posted on the House’s website does say:
1. In the budget, what Mulvaney is calling a “wall” is actually referred to as primary or pedestrian fencing. This type of fencing was first funded in the 2006 Secure Fence Act.
2. What Mulvaney is referring to as “cyclone fencing” is referred to in the budget as vehicle fencing. So the new budget deal funds the replacement of 20 miles of shorter fencing by taller steel fencing.
3. A similar appropriation to the Department of Homeland Security for fencing was also made in last year’s budget, i.e. the budget from when Obama was the president.
4. The U.S.-Mexico border is 1,951 miles long.
So what we have here is a chunk of money for the Department of Homeland Security comparable to what it already received under the Obama administration. Which will be used to upgrade a length of fence that spans just over 1 percent of the border. If that’s what Trump considers a down payment, it seems like he might not be the best guy to loan money to.