Sunday, April 15, 2018

Trump’s Border Wall Proposal: A “Bigly” Waste of Taxpayer Money

Guest blogger: Kelsey Craven, law student, University of San Francisco:

On April 2, 2018, Trump tweeted:

        “Honduras, Mexico and many other countries that the U.S. is very generous to, sends many of their people to our country         through our WEAK IMMIGRATION POLICIES. Caravans are heading here. Must pass tough laws and build the WALL.         Democrats allow open borders, drugs and crime!”[1]

This tweet is representative of much of the rhetoric used by President Trump to promote his immigration policy, which is that we must build a border wall to stop the massive influx of “illegal immigrants” who bring drugs and crime into the United States.  President Trump has been adamant about his proposal for the wall for years in the name of national security.

After his original plan to have Mexico pay for the wall was struck down by the Mexican government, Trump asked Congress to grant $18 billion in funding for the wall in the recent spending bill.[2]  This is an extremely costly proposal, especially considering the U.S. border patrol budget in 2016 was a little over $3.8 billion (the highest it has ever been).  If President Trump, the “business man,” is asking for $18 billion of taxpayer money to pay for his border wall to stop undocumented immigrants and illegal drugs from entering the U.S., the American public should be asking: will the wall actually be worth the money?

            Will the Wall Reduce the Number of Undocumented Immigrants in the U.S.?

Building a border wall is unlikely to have any major impact regarding the number of undocumented immigrants for two main reasons.  First, the majority of undocumented immigrants in the United States are those who are already in the U.S. and have overstayed their visas.  In fact, a recent Center for Migration Studies report found that two-thirds of people in the undocumented immigrant population became an undocumented immigrant after entering with a valid visa and overstaying their admission.  This has been the trend for over a decade, and since 2007, there have been about 500,000 more overstays than illegal entries.[3]  A wall will do nothing to prevent that two-thirds of undocumented immigrants from entering a country where they have already gained access into.  If anything, nationals from countries south of the border will be more likely to overstay their visas.  This is especially true considering the extremely lengthy process of obtaining a visa, which can sometimes take over 20 years.[4]

Another major reason why a border wall would not deter undocumented immigration is the more recent trend of nationals from Central America presenting themselves at the border to apply for asylum.  Many Central Americans are fleeing from their home countries because of civil war and gang violence, which is a different situation than the traditional economic migrants from Mexico.  The United States, through its international agreements and domestic laws, must consider serious requests for asylum and cannot deport an immigrant requesting asylum until he or she has undergone asylum proceedings.  Therefore, the thousands of asylum seekers who arrive at the border would not be deterred by a wall because of their right to apply for asylum and the grave dangers they face at home.  Hence, the wall is extremely unlikely to have any major impact on the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. due to visa overstays and asylum seekers.

            Will the Wall Stop the Flow of Drugs Coming Across the Border?

            The Wall also would not stop the flow of illegal drugs coming into the U.S., because most drugs are not smuggled into the country in the remote areas of the Southwest, where Trump is proposing the wall to be built.  The Mexican cartel and other gangs implement much more effective techniques of bringing drugs into the U.S. rather than send people on a weeklong journey through the dessert.  According to the government’s National Drug Threat Assessment from 2016, the most common drug smuggling method used by cartels involves transporting drugs in vehicles through U.S. ports of entry.[5]  Border and drug enforcement agencies have also been discovering dozens of underground tunnels created and used by the cartels to transport drugs across the border without any inspection.  In the past three decades, 197 tunnels have been found along the border, not including about a hundred unfinished tunnels founds on the Mexican side of the border.[6]  In addition to smuggling drugs through tunnels and ports of entries, smugglers have also been known to use other methods, such as sending drugs through international mail or using aerial methods like drones, catapults, and cannons.[7]  All of these drug smuggling methods involve going over a wall, under a wall, or through a wall in a port of entry.  Thus, none of these smuggling techniques would be hindered, prevented, or deterred from the construction of a border wall.

            The Ultimate Question: Is the Wall Worth It?

The wall is not worth $18 billion of taxpayer money, because it is very unlikely to have any major impact on reducing the number of undocumented immigrants or the number of illegal drugs smuggled into the country.  If anything, the wall will simply serve as a power symbol.  If we were to treat Trump’s border wall plan like a business proposal, no sane business man would invest $18 billion in a wall that will have no real impact on undocumented immigration or deterring drug smugglers.  Instead of spending billions on a wall that will not work, the government should spend that money on policies that will have a positive lasting impact on our immigration system, such as improving the lengthy visa application system by implementing an electronic immigration system.  We must demand that our President and our politicians be smarter in our investments and promote immigration policies that will actually be worth the government spending.


[1] @realDonaldTrump.  Twitter, 2 April, 2018, 5:12 p.m.,

[2] Levy, Gabrielle. “Trump Wants $18B for Border Wall as DACA Negotiations Stumble.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report, 5 Jan. 2018,

[3] Gonella, Catalina. “Visa Overstays Outnumber Illegal Border Crossings; Trend Likely to Continue.”, NBCUniversal News Group, 7 Mar. 2017,

[4] April 2018 Visa Bulletin,

United States, Congress, Drug Enforcement Administration. “2016 National Drug Threat Assessment Summary.” 2016 National Drug Threat Assessment Summary, Nov. 2016.

[6] Guerrero, Jean. “US-Mexico Drug Tunnels Evolving Amid Increased Border Security.” KPBS Public Media, 21 June 2017,

[7] Root, Jay. “Texas Smugglers Say Trump's Border Wall Wouldn't Stop Immigrants, Drugs from Pouring Across the Border.” Pulitzer Center, 30 Jan. 2018,


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