News Brief: Government Shutdown Looms as Trump Demands Border Wall Funding
December 14, 2018
During his 2016 campaign, Donald Trump made a key campaign promise: to build a continuous physical barrier along the southern United States (U.S.) border. This was received with fervor by Trump’s supporters. Chants of “build the wall!” boomed during the 2016 presidential election season. As Trump took office, his attacks on legal and undocumented immigrants have been unceasing.
Now, nearly two years into his tenure, the president has still failed to convince Congress to fund his infamous border wall. Yet, the president continues to seek vast sums to fuel this project. Currently, the president has requested $5 billion in immediate funds from Congress to further support the effort. On Tuesday, Trump publicly argued with Democratic leaders and threatened to shut down the federal government to acquire the required amount.
This news brief explores a few topics. Firstly, what information do we have about Trump’s desired border wall? Is it feasible, both physically and economically? Second, what happened between Trump and Democratic leaders and what are the potential consequences? Finally, if a government shutdown occurs, what will happen?
Trump’s Border Wall
One of the first acts of Trump’s presidency was Executive Order 13767, which ordered the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to start preparing for the construction of a “physical wall” at the US-Mexico border. In response to E.O. 13767, DHS created several border wall prototypes and initiated testing. In this case, agents wanted to test the prototypes on several parameters: cost, construction requirements, and penetrability.
A 2018 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) called attention to many problems with border wall testing, preparation, and feasibility. The GAO concluded that Trump’s border wall will, in all likelihood, “cost more than projected, take longer than planned, or not fully perform as expected.” This is a scary thought, considering how much money the president is currently requesting.
Below we explore more findings about the planned US-Mexico border wall, specifically cost analysis and construction considerations.
How much will it cost?
There are many estimates concerning the cost of Trump’s US-Mexico border wall, all forecasting that the structure would cost American taxpayers billions. Whatever the cost, should the wall be approved, it would direct an unprecedented amount of funding to border patrol efforts, far exceeding what the effort currently receives.
During his campaign, Donald Trump estimated that the wall could be built for roughly $12 billion. Conversely, a later report by DHS suggests the sum would likely be far higher – around $21.5 billion. Yet, this immense sum is still far lower than the $70 billion estimated by Senate Democrats in an April 2017 report. At that cost, “every American man, woman, and child [would pay] over $200” for the wall.
It is prudent to remember that the above cost projections do not include structural maintenance, nor the manpower cost to guard the wall. The report released by Senate Democrats places the yearly cost for maintenance around $150 million. Certainly, such money could be spent better elsewhere.
Can we build it?
While the above costs are obviously prohibitive, there remains a simple question: can the wall be built? The GAO tested feasibility of the current DHS prototypes. The data report bleak results, indicating that any wall prototype would need extensive additional testing before any true construction could begin.
For example, all eight prototypes tested presented some level of construction challenge, ranked from “moderate” to “extensive.” The report, within its title, highlights that the administration is “proceeding without key information.”
While the president demands $5 billion from Congress for a border wall, we face an unsettling truth. It appears that administration leaders aren’t even quite sure how the wall will be constructed.
President Spars with Democratic Leaders Over Wall
With a spending bill deadline rapidly approaching, Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer attended a meeting with President Trump at the White House on Tuesday. The intention was to discuss spending requests and requirements. Unfortunately, the meeting quickly escalated into an argument broadcasted publicly to the American people.
The president threatened in certain terms to shut down the federal government in order to acquire funding for his border wall. This is a sticking point between the president and Democrats, who oppose any physical barrier at the border.
In fact, Trump said to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, “I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck.”
While numerous Congressional Republicans support Trump’s border wall funding, Democrats appear at the ready to resist the president. Yet, this may result in a federal shutdown. NPR breaks down the president’s demands and Tuesday’s contentious meeting here.
What Happens During a Government Shutdown?
If the government shuts down this December, it will affect many areas of the U.S. federal government. Yet, there are certain sectors that remain active, as they are necessary for the proper function of the U.S. Examples include the U.S. Postal Service and the military. Since the Reagan administration, this general rule has been in place, keeping those at work who “protect life and property.”
When the federal government shuts down, the employees who don’t work are “furloughed.” Should Trump impose a government shutdown, PBS estimates that roughly half of the 2 million federal employees would be temporarily furloughed.
Government shutdowns are incredibly costly – the last shutdown in 2013 cost over $2.5 billion. You can read more about the details and consequences of shutdowns here.
Contact an Austin Immigration Lawyer
If you or a loved one have questions about Trump’s immigration plans or policies, you should contact an expert immigration attorney. Only a lawyer certified by your state’s bar association can provide adequate legal advice and guidance regarding immigration concerns. The lawyers at Nanthaveth & Associates continually monitor immigration policies and news in order to provide top-tier counsel to clients. Call us today to schedule a free consultation – we can discuss your concerns and start planning for your future!
 United States Government Accountability Office. (July 2018). Southwest Border Security: CBP is Evaluating Designs and Locations for Border Barriers but Is Proceeding Without Key Information. Retrieved from https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/693488.pdf
 U.S. Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee, Ranking Member’s Office. (April 2017). Southern Border Wall: Soaring Cost Estimates and Lack of Planning Raise Fundamental Questions About Administration’s Key Domestic Policy. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/04/18/us/politics/document-Senate-Democrats-Border-Wall-Report.html
 United States Government Accountability Office. (July 2018).
 United States Government Accountability Office. (July 2018).