In the final weeks the his presidency, chairman Donald Trump has returned to the signature concern that brought him come the White residence — his pledge to build “a beautiful, gorgeous, big wall” on the southern border. On two different occasions, Trump has said the is “completing the wall, like I claimed I would” and also that it is “almost finished.”

To it is in sure, the Trump administration has constructed hundreds of miles of border fencing, an ext than under any other chairman in American history. Yet by the end of Trump’s ax in January, the size of fencing will be well quick of what trump promised repeatedly during the campaign or what his administration initially proposed when he took office.

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Border specialists say building and construction crews won’t come nearby to also finishing the work-related that is at this time funded.

Most that the wall constructed to day has to be replacement for existing dilapidated or poor fencing, in spite of earlier plans come build brand-new barriers where none exist before. In 2018, an management official testified that his firm would construct 316 miles of new pedestrian barriers “in addition to what is over there now.” however to day only around 40 mile of such brand-new fencing have actually been built.

Other border experts warn no to minimization the impact of the instead of fencing. In part cases, the new barriers erected replaced fencing made from Vietnam-era landing mats. U.S. Customs and also Border Protection also has replaced nearly 200 mile of car barriers — the kind that people could walk appropriate through — v 30-foot-high steel bollards, lighting and other technology.

That’s a dramatic change. Listed below are before-and-after picture of car barriers changed by fencing in body organ Pipe Cactus national Monument in Arizona. The first was bring away in April 2019, the 2nd in January 2020:


But even if it is the wall surface is “almost finished” is an additional question. Component of the an obstacle of measuring that is the ambiguity around what a completed wall would look at like. Trump has actually constantly moved the goal write-ups on how long the wall should be, and no master plan for the project has ever been publicly released.

Those who have tracked the construction very closely say fencing mostly has been built where over there was least resistance, wherein the federal government currently owned the land — specifically in Arizona and new Mexico. Much less has actually been built in locations of Texas, especially, where exclusive landowners have dealt with condemnation of your land in the courts.

What has resulted, border specialists say, is a patchwork the fencing. Nonetheless, v no publicly mutual benchmarks for “completion” that the wall, trump card has declared near-victory.

“You know, we’re perfect the wall, choose I said I would,” Trump claimed in an interview top top Fox News on Nov. 29. “Everyone said, you would never be able to do it.”

At a Dec. 5 rally in Georgia, trump card said, “They also want to take down the wall. … i heard him speak it the other day, ‘We will take under the wall.’ We have the strongest border we’ve ever had now. We’re nearly finished with the wall.”

As we have actually written, Biden has actually not stated he plans come “take down the wall,” contrary to Trump’s claim. But Biden go vow in august that, if elected, “there will not be another foot of wall surface construction in my administration.”

According come a CBP condition report, the U.S. Has built 438 miles of “border wall system” under Trump, as of Dec. 18. Many of that, 365 miles of it, together we said, is instead of for main or secondary fencing that was dilapidated or that outdated design. In addition, 40 miles of brand-new primary wall and 33 mile of an additional wall have been built in places where there were no barriers before.

So the footprint that the wall surface is 40 miles much longer than it was before Trump took office.

CBP states it has resources in place to construct one more 241 miles of fencing where there to be no barriers before. But border specialists say most of that is not going to acquire built.

According come CBP updates, in the last three months about 31 mile of new wall have been built in locations where there to be no barrier before. At that rate, and assuming Biden immediately puts a halt to all brand-new wall building and construction as promised, the administration will complete less 보다 a 4 minutes 1 of the new miles for which that has resources — and also that will certainly be well quick of the new miles of wall surface Trump had originally promised.

What walk Trump promise?

Although the 2016 Republican communication stated, “The border wall surface must covering the whole of the southern border and also must be enough to prevent both vehicular and also pedestrian traffic,” that’s no actually what trumped talked around during the campaign.

At the time, Trump continuously talked about needing 1,000 mile of wall. Below are just a couple of examples end a 10-month period during the campaign:

Given that Trump inherited about 650 miles of barriers, that would median building an additional 350 mile (in addition to any replacement fencing).

But once Trump to be elected, he began to move the goal posts — from 1,000 miles to 900 come 800 come 700 and also even less.

“We perform not require 2,000 miles of concrete wall from sea come shining sea — we never ever did; we never proposed that; we never ever wanted the — due to the fact that we have barriers at the border where herbal structures room as an excellent as anything that we deserve to build,” Trump claimed in remarks from the White home on Jan. 25, 2019. “They’re already there. They’ve been there for millions of years. Ours proposed frameworks will be in predetermined high-risk locations that have been specifically figured out by the Border Patrol to protect against illicit operation of people and drugs.”

But is the wall being constructed in “predetermined high-risk locations”?

What to be the trump administration’s plan?

In his executive order top top border defense issued top top Jan. 25, 2017, simply days ~ he to be inaugurated, Trump called on the secretary that the department of Homeland defense to “produce a considerable study the the defense of the southern border, to be completed in ~ 180 work of this order, that shall include the current state of southerly border security, every geophysical and also topographical facets of the southern border, the ease of access of Federal and State resources necessary to attain complete operational regulate of the southerly border, and a strategy to obtain and maintain finish operational manage of the southern border.”

A July 2020 report native the Office the the Inspector general for the department of Homeland defense said the report ultimately submitted through CBP — the an extensive Southern Border Study and also Strategy — was four months late (after the 180 deadline implemented by the executive, management order). The IG said the arrangement was inadequate because CBP didn’t show it might acquire the land essential to carry out its plan and the agency didn’t justification the top priorities it set out in the plan.

specifics it states that CBP “did no conduct an analysis of options to assess and select the many effective, appropriate, and also affordable remedies to attain operational manage of the southerly border as directed, but instead relied on prior outdated border remedies to identify materiel alternatives for meeting its mission requirement; and … go not usage a sound, well-documented methodology come identify and prioritize investments in areas along the border that would certainly best benefit from physics barriers.”

The CBP report was never ever released publicly.

During a congressional hearing on in march 15, 2018, Rep. Martha McSally said that in so late 2017, conference asked CBP leadership “to provide Congress with a perform of what they required to adequately for sure the border.”

In response, in at an early stage January 2018, CBP created a paper called “Critical CBP needs to boost Border Security,” i m sorry was additionally never publicly released. According to CNN, which derived the documents, CBP laid out a irreversible vision because that “about 864 mile of brand-new wall and about 1,163 mile of replacement or an additional wall” and also asked for $18 billion end 10 year to build 722 miles of border wall, consisting of “about 316 brand-new miles of primary structure and about 407 mile of instead of and second wall.”

At the in march 15, 2018, committee hearing, Ronald D. Vitiello, acting deputy commissioner the U.S. Customs and also Border Protection, shown that the CBP paper called for constructing 316 mile of brand-new pedestrian fencing, “in addition to what is over there now.” In various other words, that was in addition to the 654 mile of existing border barriers.

Again, to date, 40 miles of new fencing have actually been created where there to be no barriers before.

Where did building take place?

There additionally have been concerns raised about CBP’s methods for identify where new barriers have to be located.

A federal government Accountability Office report released in July 2019 uncovered that CBP’s 2018 Border Security innovation Plan “doesn’t explain how projects will resolve the highest possible priority security needs.”

The facility for organic Diversity’s Laiken Jordahl, who opposes fencing construction, told united state in a phone call interview that the project always has to be shrouded in secrecy, and CBP has actually not mutual with the public any analysis of whereby it think a wall should be built for preferably impact.

“There’s never been any sort of strategy planning,” Jordahl said. “There definitely hasn’t been anything gift to the general public” about where CBP intends to develop the wall surface and why. “From day 1, it has never been around tactics. It has been a theatrical campaign from the beginning.”

Rather than building fencing in locations identified together being the the greatest need, he said, the Trump management has done most of the construction in locations of least resistance.

“They are structure where they can,” Jordahl said.

Much that the construction has been to change dilapidated or poor fencing in brand-new Mexico, Arizona and California, wherein the government owns the Roosevelt Easement, a 60-foot vast strip that land along the U.S.-Mexico border in those three states.

“He has completely changed the landscape of the Arizona and brand-new Mexico border,” Jordahl said. “It has had actually absolutely destructive environmental impacts.”

It has damaged the habitat for pets like ocelots, pronghorns and also javelinas, all of which require room come roam, Jordahl said. The has reduced off the hereditary interchange of gray wolf on either next of the border, threatening their survival. And also it has hampered the ability of jaguars to recolonize in the U.S.

But Trump’s claim that the wall surface is “almost finished” is “absolutely not true, specifically in south Texas,” where big swaths that the borderlands space privately owned, Nicol said. In southern Texas, Nicol said, “the require to gain property on i beg your pardon to construct the border wall has stymied construction” as landowners have actually tied up the federal government in the courts.

According come a GAO evaluation issued in November, as of July 2020 the federal federal government had acquired 135 tracts of privately own land, however was still functioning to gain 991 additional tracts, almost every one of them in the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo sectors in south Texas.

“So nothing has actually been built on any kind of of those properties,” Nicol said.

“The building that has emerged in the RGV sector (nothing has gone up in the Laredo sector yet) first targeted U.S. Fish and also Wildlife refuge properties the are component of the reduced Rio Grande Valley national Wildlife Refuge system,” Nicol said. “That is exponentially environmentally destructive, yet it walk not analyze into more than a mile or therefore of wall in multiple disconnected segments. There have likewise been part landowners whose property has been taken wherein walls have been built.”

“Contractors … have built on floor as soon as the federal government acquires it, however due to the moment it takes come condemn that means that just a portion of these walls have actually been built,” Nicol said. “So, for example, the Southwest valley Constructors contract is because that 11.45 mile of wall, but they have only to be able to develop 2 or possibly 3 mile in 6 or 7 disconnected, relatively short spans. The same uses for the various other contracts in Hidalgo ar , i m sorry is in the middle of the RGV sector. Cameron county has actually seen no construction, and also Starr has seen 3 or 4 mile total.”

According come the GAO report, 107 mile of brand-new border wall are slated to be built in the Rio Grande Valley, but Nicol said, “Right now a full of 6 or 7 miles room up, and also those are scattered fairly than perfect contracts.” The Laredo ar is an alleged to get 123 mile of new fencing, however Nicol stated it has actually not yet gained any.

“So not also close to gift finished,” Nicol said.

Gil Kerlikowske, who offered as CBP commissioner under then-President Barack Obama, claimed that the problems with gaining property from private landowners in Texas way the fence is no going increase in locations where there space the many illegal border crossings.

“The locations where a huge number of world cross right into the U.S. Is the RGV (McAllen, TX area),” Kerlikowske told us via email. “It is lot more an overwhelming to erect a barrier there due to the fact that of private land ownership, a transforming Rio Grande river, and also agriculture. Therefore the area where you can justify the need is the one neglected.”

Activists choose Jordahl and also Nicol are counting top top Biden to automatically put a protect against to fence construction long before the present contracts space completed.

The facility for organic Diversity and the Sierra society were amongst the 100 groups that sent a letter last month to the Biden shift team questioning the president-elect come “take immediate activity to stimulate the room of landscape Security, room of Defense, and also Department of Justice come halt all construction and also land acquisition initiatives for Trump’s border wall on your an initial day in office.”

How much did the cost and who paid?

Trump, of course, consistently promised that Mexico would certainly pay because that the wall. And that hasn’t happened, in spite of Trump’s false cases that Mexico is paying somehow through the unified States-Mexico-Canada commitment or with a border toll.

According to CBP data detailed to, the Trump management secured a full of $15 billion during his presidency for wall surface construction. Some of it to be appropriated in yearly budgets by Congress, and some to be diverted by Trump indigenous counternarcotics and military building and construction funding. But it has actually all to be borne by American taxpayers.

The number committed to date for wall construction — $15 exchange rate — argues the wall Trump acquired is well quick of what that wanted.

And the is i can not qualify the Trump administration will have the ability to spend also that much. Follow to U.S. Army Corps the Engineers’ estimates reviewed by the Washington Post, there will certainly be about $3.3 billion in unused border barrier funding once Biden bring away office. If Biden instantly stops building as promised, the would expense the U.S. Around $700 million to terminate those contracts, conserving the U.S. Government around $2.6 billion.

“The administration has also said that through the $15 billion in capital it allotted because that the wall, that could construct 738 miles,” buy it Pierce, a plan analyst with the Migration policy Institute, told us via email. “So, no, the full amount of wall that the administration had planned to construct is not close to being completed and also will no be completed.”

The wall surface Act of 2019, introduced by Republican Sen. James Inhofe in January 2019 and co-sponsored by five other Republicans, sought $25 billion for wall surface construction, an attempt to fully fund the wall. The bill never went anywhere, but it is another indication of how far short the president has actually come to structure the wall he promised.

The newly agreed ~ above pandemic relief bill includes $1.375 billion because that “the building and construction of barrier system,” the same amount Congress has appropriated the last 3 years. A House democratic aide told us the funding has 5 years of availability, so the none that the resources would need to be obligated until fiscal year 2025. In addition, Democrats were able to strike language used in former years the required resources to be supplied for new border wall surface construction, which would certainly have considerably tied Biden’s hands, the aide said.

Even if the Trump management were able come obligate every one of this funding for brand-new border wall surface prior come Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, Biden would have the ability to cancel those contracts with little loss that funding. The wording the the bill would additionally give Biden the discretion come use any remaining funds because that “barrier system,” consisting of technology, roads and also lighting for currently constructed border barriers, the aide said.

What type of ‘wall’ was built?

The form of wall surface Trump promised to build also has advanced over time.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump as soon as talked around a wall made that precast concrete slabs. ~ he became president, trump commissioned wall surface prototypes, countless of lock of heavy concrete construction. Yet the new fencing being developed doesn’t resemble any of the prototypes. Rather, Congress just authorized trump to construct the very same see-through steel bollard fencing previously supplied for the wall.

Gone, too, are the debates over the vocabulary provided — fencing or wall. It when made a distinction to Trump. During the 2016 campaign, because that example, trump lambasted Republican primary enemy Jeb bush for phone call his proposal a fence. “It’s not a fence, Jeb,” that wrote. “It’s a WALL, and there’s a huge difference!”

But throughout his presidency, Trump has dropped the distinction. Not coincidentally, it was dropped approximately the time Congress required him to expropriate “operationally reliable designs deployed as of the day of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017, such as at this time deployed stole bollard designs, the prioritize certified dealer safety.”

“The walls we are building are not medieval walls,” Trump claimed in remarks indigenous the White house on Jan. 25, 2019. “They space smart wall surfaces designed to meet the demands of frontline border agents, and are operationally effective. These obstacles are do of steel, have see-through visibility, which is very important, and are equipped through sensors, monitors, and cutting-edge technology, including state-of-the-art drones.”

But words offered to define the fence space still crucial to the administration.

Last January, acting Secretary that Homeland security Chad wolf took concern with characterizing lot of the fence construction as “replacement wall.”

“One point I want to emphasize is the every inch of the 100 miles that we have constructed is new border wall system,” wolf said. “It’s no so-called replacement wall, as few of our doubters claimed. That is brand-new wall.”

According to a Washington Post story in January, “Nearly all of the 100 miles of brand-new fencing completed thus far is labeling ‘replacement barrier’ by CBP, yet the White House has actually asked the firm to avoid using that term because it sounds like less of an accomplishment.”

A January conference Research service report ~ above border barrier funding said the debate over nomenclature misses the point.

“Is the management ‘building the wall,’ or is the ‘just replacing existing fences?’ frame the dispute on barrier or wall building at the border utilizing these extremes regularly does not catch the complexity of the situation, in regards to what CBP says the barriers can be expected to do and also the realities that the terrain and geography of the border,” the writer stated. “Much of the present wave of construction — whether brand-new or replacement obstacles — is 18- to 30-foot high reinforced bollard fencing. That poses a formidable barrier, however it is no the high, thick stonework structure that many dictionaries term a ‘wall.’”

Whatever one desires to call it, CBP has accelerated the speed of building to gain as lot finished as feasible before Biden takes office. U.S. Attorneys have additionally stepped up their initiatives to condemn home in Texas because that the wall. Some who live near the border oppose the construction, and also others to speak it has actually made their areas safer.

But, as we have actually said, even if Trump got to his goal of building 450 mile of wall before his ax is over, the wouldn’t it is in “finished,” at the very least not come the point CBP has actually indicated in vault reports is essential to “achieve finish operational control of the southern border,” the score outlined in Trump’s post-inaugural executive, management order. Nor will certainly it be almost everywhere close come what trumped promised throughout his 2016 campaign.

Has it to be effective?

Back in August, when Trump to be accepting the Republican nomination, that boasted: “The wall surface will soon be complete, and it is working beyond our wildest expectations.”

But it may be years prior to we are able to tell how efficient the wall surface has gone to stopping illegal immigration. Plenty of factors that have actually nothing to execute with the wall surface — COVID-19, the economy, civil unrest — every play a duty in test illegal border crossings.

Experts use figures on border apprehensions come gauge the level the illegal border crossings. The data indigenous CBP existing a blended bag when it concerns making Trump’s case.

Border apprehensions spiked in fiscal year 2019, and also then fell by about half in fiscal 2020, which finished on Sept. 30. The is difficult to enraged out just how much of that drop might be together a an outcome of the brand-new barriers created under Trump, however a Pew Research facility report documenting the decline attributed it greatly to a an international decrease in the motion of migrants as result of the COVID-19 outbreak, and governments completely or partially closing their borders as a result.

Most immigrants who cross into the U.S. Illegal come indigenous Mexico and central American countries that have actually passed measures restricting the activities of their residents as result of COVID-19.


Meanwhile, southwest border apprehensions because that October and November, the an initial two month of budget year 2021, have actually crept ago up, topping just over 67,000 every month. That’s greater than October and November 2016 (when there were about 46,000 and also 47,000 apprehensions, respectively), prior to Trump take it office.

Update, Feb. 16: follow to a CBP condition report dated Jan. 22, two days ~ Trump left office, the U.S. Created 458 mile of “border wall surface system” under Trump. That had 373 mile of replacement barriers for main or an additional fencing, and also 52 mile of primary wall and 33 miles of an additional wall in places where there were no barriers before.

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Biden walk halt building of brand-new border barriers automatically upon acquisition office. The U.S. Army Corps of engineers said the “suspended every bollard barrier and gate building and construction January 21, 2021, and also suspended all work on border infrastructure January 23, 2021.”

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