There are a number of critical questions about the wall and the American people deserve answers. American Oversight is auditing the wall to get them:
President Trump has gone from claiming that “Mexico will pay for the wall” to his current position that American taxpayers are going to have to foot the bill – at least initially. With a project that could cost anywhere between $12 and $70 billion – and with the administration changing its public position daily – it is essential to know how much the government expects this wall to cost and who they expect to pay for it.
President Trump says he will be personally involved in the budget and design process for the wall – and even before he took office, there were news reports that Trump had contacted a real estate developer to ask him to build the wall. The federal procurement process has very specific rules to ensure that taxpayers get the best value for their money, and any large construction projects must go through a rigorous bidding process. If the president is planning to interfere in the process and violate contracting rules, that raises serious red flags about the potential for favoritism or conflicts of interest.
Building a physical, 30-foot-tall wall along the entire 2,000 mile U.S.-Mexico border would have an environmental impact on a scale unlike any infrastructure project in recent memory. The wall would bisect multiple wildlife refuges and national parks and potentially threaten a number of endangered and protected species. Government agencies are required to conduct environmental impact assessments before moving forward with infrastructure projects – but it is not clear what, if any, environmental assessments the Trump administration has done or intends to do for the wall project.
Local residents along the border have started receiving Declarations of Taking from DHS – a preliminary step before the government could seize their land through eminent domain. The president has already requested increased funding for the Department of Justice to hire lawyers dedicated to land disputes.
At the same time, the Tohono O’odham Nation has made it very clear that it does not want a wall built through the middle of its territory which spans both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Federal law requires the government to consult with the tribe before making any changes to how the land is used.
It is not at all clear that a physical wall along the length of the U.S.-Mexico border – as President Trump has proposed – would significantly improve border security. Nor is it clear that a “virtual wall” using surveillance techniques and remote sensors would be any more effective now than it was in 2010 when the SBInet program was canceled. As DHS Secretary Kelly told a Senate committee in April, most drugs come into the country through the existing ports of entry rather than on the backs of smugglers walking across the desert.