An internal report from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security seen by Reuters puts the cost for President Donald Trump's proposed "wall" along the U.S.-Mexico border at up to $21.6 billion, far higher than the estimates put forth by Trump or Republican leadership.
Trump, who signed on Jan. 25 an executive order to begin the wall, has claimed it would cost $12 billion. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan estimated the costs at between $12 and $15 billion. Analysts, however, have argued the costs would be far higher.
The wire service reports: "The report is expected to be presented to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly in coming days, although the administration will not necessarily take actions it recommends."
According to the report, there would be three construction phases spanning 3.5 years, with the first to begin in September. The divider would be a combination of walls and fences to span the roughly 1,250 miles (2,000 km.) not already covered by the 654 miles (1,046 km.) of barriers already in place.
Reuters writes that the report "does not account for major physical barriers, like mountains, in areas where it would not be feasible to build," and adds that the U.S. government would need to secure eminent domain and environmental waivers as well as adhere to requirements laid out by the U.S.-Mexico International Boundary and Water Commission.
Trump, however, continues to express certainty about the wall, saying Wednesday: "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." Referring to recently confirmed Kelly, he said, "We will give him a wall, and it will be a real wall."
Political commentator and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has called the wall "an even dumber idea than most of [Trump's] others," while Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA argued that it "would say that those from outside the United States, especially from Latin America, are to be feared and shunned—and that is just wrong."
According to Clara Long, a researcher in the U.S. program at Human Rights Watch:
This border wall, if built (at U.S. taxpayer expense), will probably have a lot in common with the 600 miles of barriers along the southern border already built under the 2006 Secure Fence Act. The project razed delicate environments, trampled on long-standing property rights, and cut communities in two. It was also expensive and ineffective, not to mention ugly. Every weekend, families separated by the barrier try to share intimacies through the bars while a Border Patrol car or two stands by.
Ultimately, Trump's call for a new wall hides the ugly truth that his policies offer no new solutions. They just double down on the failed approaches of the past, which have broken families, corrupted agencies, and made the U.S. less safe, while ignoring steps that could be wins for all involved.