Wall should end before it begins


January 16, 2019

I have been thinking about walls lately, because I’ve been reading the news.

President Trump is demanding a $5.7-billion wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

That’s a $5.7-billion slap in the face to Mexico, our southern neighbor and key trading partner, and its people.

Most Mexicans don’t look like most of us or speak the same language, and they are poor. I think that makes them seem threatening to Trump and his followers.

Some Mexicans would rather live here. They may break our laws to get here if they don’t get permission first, but that’s not a $5.7 billion security threat.

The real security threats — terrorists, criminals and their contraband illegal drugs — will easily pass over, under and around a wall. In fact, most don’t come in that way in the first place.

The wall would also make us hypocrites.

The Statue of Liberty welcomes the foreign-born to New York Harbor with an inscription that includes the words, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

It ends, “I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

What’s next? Tearing down Lady Liberty?

Beyond poetry, however, I’ve been thinking about numbers.

Trump is holding 880,000 federal employees and their families hostage because he wants $5.7 billion to be reserved to build 550 miles of 30-foot-high wall, at least at last count.

That comes to about $10.4 million per mile.

If you took 2 1/2 lanes of interstate highway concrete and flipped it up to vertical, you’d have a 30-foot wall.

Even in urban areas, the most expensive places to build interstate highways, interstate construction costs about $10 million per mile, maximum, according to several authoritative sources. That’s for four lanes and includes laying down enough roadbed to withstand decades of semi-truck traffic.

I am assuming generously, I think, that the cost of building a 30-foot-high wall would be the same as building the same width of interstate highway over the same distance.

The wall would have to defy gravity to stay upright and be thicker than the 11-inch concrete surface layer of an interstate highway, but it would not require the laying of substantial roadbed.

The wall, however, would be 30 feet high, not 48 feet wide like four lanes of interstate, so I am also assuming the wall would cost about five-eighths less per mile, or about $6.5 million.

Trump’s $5.7 billion, then, would be enough for 880 miles of wall, and he’s seeking 550 miles of wall.

Using my reasoning, 550 miles of wall should cost about $3.6 billion.

So, why $5.7 billion? I think it’s a question worth asking.

That $5.7 billion could pay the salaries of 10,000 border patrol and customs agents for five years, even at $97,000 per year maximum, and they can outwit criminals and terrorists, and intercept drug shipments.

The wall can’t do that, especially in the wrong place.

So, I loosely paraphrase Ronald Reagan: “Mr. Trump, tear down that wall” — before you build it.

Steve Hansen writes about our life and times from his perspective of a retired Tucumcari journalist. Contact him at:

[email protected]


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