Build a wall, and make Mexico pay for it

"I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great great wall on our southern border and I’ll have Mexico pay for that wall."

Build a wall, and make Mexico pay for it

PolitiFact is tracking the promises of President Donald Trump. See them all at


Trump’s 2018 budget requests $1.6 billion for border security

President Donald Trump is asking Congress for $44.1 billion for the Department of Homeland Security for fiscal year 2018, including $1.6 billion to secure 74 miles along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

The requested $1.6 billion would cover: 

• 32 miles of new border wall construction along the Rio Grande Valley sector;

• 28 miles of new levee wall along the Rio Grande Valley sector; and,

• 14 miles of new border wall to replace existing secondary fence in the San Diego sector. 

Fiscal year 2018 runs from Oct. 1, 2017 to Sept. 30, 2018.

Homeland Security officials said on May 23 they are doing a sector-by-sector border analysis and getting feedback from Border Patrol to identify the areas of most need. 

DHS Secretary John Kelly told Congress on April 5 that it's "unlikely that we will build a wall or physical barrier from sea to shining sea," but that he's committed to putting it up in areas recommended by agents on the ground.

In some parts of the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border, building a concrete wall may be problematic due to rough terrain conditions.

 "The president knows that I'm looking at every variation on the theme and I have no doubt when I go back to him and say, 'You know, boss, wall makes sense here, fencing -- high-tech fencing -- makes sense over here, technology makes sense over here,' I have no doubt that he will go tell me to do it," Kelly told a Senate committee in April.

It's up to Congress whether Trump will get the requested border security funding for fiscal year 2018. In the meantime, his promise to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it remains In the Works.


Department of Homeland Security, FY 2018 Budget in Brief, May 2017

CNN, Kelly: No border wall 'from sea to shining sea', April 5, 2017

CQ, Transcript DHS Secretary John Kelly Senate hearing, April 5, 2017

DHS Secretary directs planning, design, construction of border wall

Department of Homeland Security John Kelly issued a memo Feb. 20 directing an agency within his department, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, to move forward on Trump's executive order to build a wall along the southern border.

"Consistent with the president's executive order, the will of Congress and the need to secure the border in the national interest, CBP, in consultation with the appropriate executive departments and agencies, and nongovernmental entities having relevant expertise -- and using materials originating in the United States to the maximum extent permitted by law -- shall immediately begin planning, design, construction and maintenance of a wall," the memo said.

Kelly's memo also called for the use of technology, patrol and access roads to gain operational control of the border.

Kelly directed the Under Secretary for Management and CBP commissioner to allocate all sources of available funding for the planning, design, construction and maintenance of the wall and for other security measures. They were also instructed to develop project-specific congressional budget requests for the current and subsequent fiscal years.

In a Q&A posted on DHS website, the department says it has identified locations near El Paso, Texas; Tucson, Ariz.; and El Centro, Calif., for wall construction because "fence or old brittle landing-mat fencing are no longer effective."

Border Patrol is also assessing priority areas where a wall or similar physical barriers can be built, the department said.

New DHS information advances Trump's promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Pending wall construction, we continue to rate this promise In the Works.


Department of Homeland Security, Memo on border security executive order, Feb. 20, 2017

Department of Homeland Security, Q&A: DHS Implementation of the Executive Order on Border Security and Immigration Enforcement, Feb. 21, 2017

Trump's executive order to build border wall is a start

President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to push forward one of his biggest campaign promises: build a wall along the border with Mexico.

The executive order signed Jan. 25, five days after Trump's inauguration, instructs departments and agencies to "deploy all lawful means" to secure the southern border, prevent further illegal immigration and to send immigrants in the country illegally back to their countries.

The order sets forth Trump's policy to secure the border "through the immediate construction of a physical wall," to prevent drug trafficking and terrorism.

It directs the secretary of homeland security to:

"In accordance with existing law, including the Secure Fence Act and IIRIRA, take all appropriate steps to immediately plan, design, and construct a physical wall along the southern border, using appropriate materials and technology to most effectively achieve complete operational control of the southern border."

The order defines "wall" as "a contiguous, physical wall or other similarly secure, contiguous, and impassable physical barrier."

It also asks the department to identify and allocate sources of federal funds for the planning, design, and construction of the physical wall, and to prepare congressional budget requests for the current and upcoming fiscal years.

In an interview with ABC News' David Muir aired Jan. 25, Trump said wall construction would start in months.

At a press briefing, Trump's press secretary Sean Spicer said plans for the wall will kick off with funding already available, and that Trump will work with Congress for additional funding.

"There are a lot of funding mechanisms that can be used," Spicer said. "At this point, his goal was to get the project started as quickly as possible using existing funds and resources that the department currently has, and then to move forward and work with Congress on an appropriation schedule."

Spicer also affirmed the president's plan to have Mexico pay back for the wall, saying it would happen "one way or another."

"A nation without borders is not a nation. Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its borders, gets back its borders," Trump said Jan. 25 at the Department of Homeland Security.

On Jan. 23, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto issued 10 objectives his government will seek in negotiations with the United States, among them opposition to a wall. "While Mexico recognizes the rights of every sovereign nation to guarantee its security, Mexico does not believe in walls," Peña Nieto said.

There are 702 miles of fencing along the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. The fencing includes 652 miles of primary fencing, 36 miles of secondary fencing and 14 miles of tertiary fencing, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

"If Congress acts to fund the construction of Trump's border wall and spares no expense, then it could be done very quickly," said Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration expert at the libertarian Cato Institute. "However, previous government attempts to build fences were behind schedule and over budget."

Other experts have told us it could take years to build a border wall.

Trump's pledge is to build a wall and have Mexico cover the costs. While Trump is moving forward on his promise, the wall is yet to be built and Mexico has not provided funds. We rate this promise, In the Works.



Email exchange, Steven Cheung, Jan. 25, 2017, Executive Order: Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements, Jan. 25, 2017

ABC News, President Trump Tells ABC News' David Muir: Construction of Border Wall Will Begin in 'Months', Jan. 25, 2017

Email exchange, Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration expert at the libertarian Cato Institute, Jan. 25, 2017

Mexican government website, Mexican president's 10 objectives for negotiations with United States, Jan. 23, 2017


Wall is coming, Trump promises

One of Donald Trump's signature promises is to build a wall along the border with Mexico. He's said it will be big, powerful, tall, beautiful, impenetrable.

"I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I'll build them very inexpensively," Trump said June 16, 2015, when he launched his campaign for the White House. "I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall."

"Build the wall!" chants became a staple at his campaign events. But there's a lot at play, from getting a foreign sovereign nation to foot the bill to sorting out the specifics of this monumental endeavor.


Trump says stronger border security, particularly a wall, will end illegal immigration and cut the flow of illicit drugs pouring into the United States.

The U.S.-Mexico border stretches nearly 2,000 miles, more than half of it along the Colorado River and Rio Grande. By May 2015, there were about 650 miles of vehicle and pedestrian fencing, according to a March 2016 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.


For Trump to carry out his real estate promise, he'll need funding from Congress and/or Mexico's money. He's outlined potential regulatory changes that he believes will persuade Mexico to comply.

Trump's team has said Congress could appropriate funds for the construction of the wall "to make it more speedy, and then having Mexico pay for it after the fact."

To get Mexico to pay for it, Trump has said he would introduce rules so that no immigrant would be able to send money outside the United States unless they show documentation proving their legal status. He would do that by  changing rules that regulate money transfer companies and wire transfers.

Trump says Mexico receives an estimated $24 billion a year in remittances from people in the United States and assumes Mexico will protest U.S. attempts to bar undocumented immigrants from sending money to Mexico.

Trump has said a rule modifying definitions of financial institutions and accounts would not go into effect if Mexico makes a one-time payment of $5 billion to $10 billion, which would go toward border security.


Trump's estimates of the wall's price varied throughout the campaign, at times saying $8 billion or $12 billion. He hasn't been decisive about its physical form, either, suggesting it could rise 35 to 40 feet, or 50 feet, or higher.

But he's said a wall doesn't need to run the nearly 2,000 mile border, but only half of that "because we have natural barriers."

Without precise plans, it's hard to determine how much it would cost to build the wall. By some estimates, completing fencing along the border may cost at least $5.1 billion. Others have estimated that securing the remaining approximate 1,300 miles along the border could cost as much as $25 billion.


If Trump plans to have Mexico refund him the cost of building the wall, then he faces opposition from Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who has said there's "no way" his country would pay for the wall. (Peña Nieto's 6-year term ends in 2018.)

Engineering and immigration experts have told PolitiFact that the federal government would need to acquire private land along the border and compensate owners for it through eminent domain. That process could take years if landowners put up a fight.

"Every piece of land is different," Paul Barkhurst, an eminent domain litigation lawyer based in San Antonio told PolitiFact Texas back in February 2016. "You're talking about a massive project across many, many states. It just depends on how much resources they want to put on it."


Once the wall's specifics are determined, there's a planning period that could go on for at least one year (including terrain surveying and finalization of design issues), plus project bidding, experts say. Environmental impact studies may also be commissioned.

Engineering experts believe it would take years to build a wall, though it's hard to tell exactly how many without detailed specifics. It's also undetermined when and if Mexico would pay for the wall.


Donald Trump twitter feed, Jan. 6, 2017