President Donald Trump signed an executive order on January 25, 2017 to allocate the funds needed to build a new wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. However, there are several questions that arise about the new border wall, many of them about the cost to both taxpayers and those who live along the border. Here are five of the most important questions the federal government needs to answer.
Who will pay for the wall?
As the vote for the federal budget draws near, an important question arises: where will the funds to build the wall come from? The 30-foot wall, built entirely out of concrete as the president has planned, would cost an average of $36.6 million per mile, or $66.9 billion in total. The president originally stated that Mexico would pay for the wall, but the Mexican government has rejected that possibility multiple times. This means that the American taxpayers will have to foot the bill.
How widely will eminent domain be used to acquire land for the wall?
According to the Government Accountability Office, the federal government owns less than a third of the land where the wall would be built. Thus, the government would need to seize the necessary land using eminent domain, which is the right of the government to expropriate private property for public use, and provide compensation to the original owner. It is likely that any compensation would be challenged through litigation, as it has been in the past, but the landowners will likely be under-compensated, given the history of the federal government under-compensating rural landowners. All compensations will also come out of the taxpayer’s pocket.
Will the wall respect tribal rights?
The border wall will also cross tribal lands. The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) passed a resolution opposing the construction of new border barriers on Native American land without consent from relevant tribes. The NCAI’s primary concerns are about tribal sovereignty, historic and culturally sensitive sites along the border, inequitable distribution of associated expenses, and division of tribal communities that exist on both sides of the border. Thus, President Trump may need an act of Congress to acquire tribal lands, which are protected by treaties and other laws.
What impacts will the wall have on access to the Rio Grande?
Building a border wall is not just a political act — it is also an environmental one. 1,255 miles, or 64 percent, of the U.S.-Mexico border runs through the Rio Grande. Building a wall would cut off U.S. access to the river, which supplies water for 50,000 acres of farmland and countless communities, including all of the drinking water for Laredo, Texas. The wall would also block wildlife migration corridors, worsen floods, and cut through Big Bend National Park.
Why is the wall necessary?
The American Immigration Council points out, “The federal border agencies have not asked for a wall.” Congress members representing border states have not asked for a wall either. Senator John Cornyn put it succinctly: “What I would like to see is a plan for how the money would be spent and a good faith discussion about what border security is really composed of. We haven’t had that.” In fact, border apprehensions are at a 40-year low, with a declining undocumented immigrant population. So what problem is there that a new and incredibly expensive wall would solve? Seemingly, none.