A December 2018 American Oversight report, “Audit the Wall: No Plans, No Funding, No Timeline, No Wall,” found that President Donald Trump’s repeated claims that his administration is building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border are largely false. No matter Americans’ opinions on Trump’s insistence on building the wall, they have a right to know how their money is being spent — especially since Trump’s vow to make Mexico pay for the wall is going nowhere. Estimates of the wall’s total cost have varied, sometimes reaching as high as $70 billion, and the administration has failed to accurately determine how much taxpayers would be expected to spend, failing to consider factors such as topography and land ownership.
Beginning in 2017, American Oversight filed multiple Freedom of Information Act requests to the Department of Homeland Security and other related agencies to uncover not only the costs of construction, but the procurement process, the proposed schedule for building, and considerations of environmental impact and property ownership.
Records we obtained in September 2017 revealed that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had serious concerns about the “likely irreparable” ecological damage building a wall would inflict on wildlife in the Rio Grande Valley. We also uncovered communications that indicate the government had made almost no efforts to engage with leaders of the Tohono O’odham nation, a sovereign Native American tribe that controls 62 miles of border land. Similarly, the administration has not made adequate legal preparations for likely eminent-domain challenges, which are bound to arise considering that most border land without a fence is privately owned.
Despite Trump’s reliance on using the wall as a rallying cry for his political base, our investigation has revealed his administration’s inaction and its failure to seriously consider the effects of such a massive infrastructure project. American Oversight is currently suing DHS and CBP for the release of additional documents and communications that could uncover conflicts of interest and shed light on administration plans — or lack thereof.
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