A concertina barbed wire fence stands next to a border fence that separates the U.S. and Mexico stands in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, U.S. (Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg)  

About That Wall Trump Said Mexico Will Pay For: QuickTake Q&A

(Bloomberg) -- During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump passionately promoted construction of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico and insisted that Mexico would pay it. One year into office, he remains determined to get something built, even if it’s not as vast as he used to suggest. But with Mexico refusing to foot the bill, the wall’s funding is ensnared in tricky budget negotiations.

1. What’s Trump asking for?

His latest request, as part of negotiations over a fiscal 2019 spending package, is for a $25 billion trust fund that would pay for the border wall and other security upgrades. He also wants to end a visa lottery program and end priority immigration treatment of parents of American citizens. In exchange, he would grant Democrats’ request to permanently protect so-called Dreamers, the 1.8 million or so undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, with a path to citizenship that could take 12 years.

2. What might the wall look like?

Though Trump denies changing his position, he no longer seeks a monolithic, 30-foot-tall concrete wall stretching for more than 2,000 miles (3,218 kilometers). Plans now call for a more modest 722-mile barrier that is a mix of wall and fencing, mostly updating what’s been in place for decades, while relying on drones and other methods to secure the rest.

3. What’s been done so far?

Eight wall prototypes are now being tested in a desert outside San Diego, California. Four are primarily concrete structures, with two made mostly of metal and two others being hybrid designs of concrete, metal bars and steel plating. The mock-ups are being tested for their ability to repel attempts to climb over, smash through or tunnel underneath. U.S. Customs and Border Protection will select the best designs and begin the process of awarding contracts for actual construction once there’s money.

4. How much would a wall cost?

Estimates range from as low as $8 billion to as much as $67 billion or more, depending on whom you ask and the number of miles of wall that get built. Based on Trump’s 2017 budget request for $2.6 billion to plan, design and build 75 miles of wall, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill’s office estimated the per-mile cost would be about $37 million, or nearly $67 billion for the entire 2,000-mile border. Congressional Republicans have said they expect a wall to cost from $12 billion to $15 billion, based on the cost to rebuild existing border fencing covering a third of that distance. These projections, however, don’t include the cost of land acquisition.

5. Doesn’t the government own the border?

Far from it. Two-thirds of the land is private or state-owned, much of it in Texas. The Trump administration could seek to use eminent domain to seize land needed for a border barrier, as well as support roads and other infrastructure, though it would likely face costly legal challenges that could delay construction for years.

6. How could Trump get Mexico to pay for the wall?

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has emphatically refused to fund the border wall. Trump has suggested that the U.S. can recoup wall expenses from Mexico via alternative methods, including by cutting its trade surplus with the U.S. He’s also floated the option of invoking the Patriot Act to cut off or tax remittance payments to Mexico from Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. Mexicans sent home $25.7 billion in remittances in 2016, according to Banco de Mexico.

7. So who will pay for it?

If Mexico can’t be made to pay, U.S. taxpayers, most likely.

8. How much wall exists already?

Barriers span 653 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, mostly along the western half. Much of the southern borders of California, Arizona and New Mexico have existing barriers, ranging from 18-foot-tall iron fencing and corrugated metal to makeshift vehicle barriers and barbed wire.

9. Would a wall even work?

Most experts doubt that a physical wall would do much to reduce the $150 billion in illegal drugs that pour into the country each year. As part of a set of tools to combat illegal immigration, however, physical barriers could help. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Trump’s plan last year, saying a fence built along Israel’s border with Egypt has been a "great success" in keeping out migrants, mainly from African nations.

The Reference Shelf

  • A QuickTake explainer on the Dreamers program.
  • Not all Republican lawmakers are united with Trump on the wall, Bloomberg News reported.
  • A Bloomberg editorial suggested that Democrats should agree to wall funding if they can use it to protect undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children.
  • This Bloomberg graphic explores the wall and its purpose in depth.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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