One of Donald Trump’s most popular campaign promises is to build a physical barrier between America and Mexico.
Furthermore, he is confident that he will make Mexico pay for it.
Is that plan as simple as he claims?
“Honestly, I think it’s just more Donald Trump rhetoric that he himself knows,” said Anna Pegler-Gordon, a social relations and policy professor at Michigan State University. “It’s just not going to happen, but it’s a good sound bite.”
At one point, Trump threatened to restrict the flow of payments made by U.S. immigrants to their families in Mexico, which is vital to the Mexican economy, unless the agreed to foot the bill for the wall.
Trump says Mexico can afford it due to its trade surplus with America. In 2015, Mexico was the United States’ third largest supplier of goods imports, exporting around $54 billion more than it imported.
“It’s a terrible idea. It’s uninformed by data on Mexican migration to the U.S.,” said Stephanie Nawyn, associate professor in the Department of Sociology at Michigan State University. “The wall is unnecessary and probably wouldn’t work anyway.”
The wall is estimated between about $8 billion and $25 billion to build. That doesn’t include the cost of maintenance and constant surveillance.
“The idea that we can build an entire wall the length of the U.S.-Mexico border is ridiculous,” Nawyn said. “We’re already spending $4 billion on U.S.-Mexico border patrol.
Nawyn added that in addition to being impractical, a wall is unnecessary. Right now, she said, “Undocumented migration of Mexicans to the U.S. is very close to net zero, which means there are just as many Mexicans returning to Mexico, as there are coming to America.”
Nawyn said Trump’s posturing sets a bad example for other nations, suggesting they can jump on board and do something equally as exclusionary.
“It will send a message that we aren’t interested in partnering with Mexico and we blame them for our problems. It’s not going to help relations,” Nawyn said.
During his campaign, Trump made claims that when Mexico sends its people, it sends the worst, meaning criminals, drug lords, etc. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Caucasian people committed close to twice as many crimes as Hispanics in the year 2014. Hispanics also make up about 16.4 percent of the work force in this country.
“Make it possible for people to come legally,” said Pegler-Gordon. “The reason why so many people come without authorization is because there’s no real reason for them to come with authorization. … Most people want to come legally if they can, but at the moment there’s no way for them to come legally unless you have family here or you’re an elite immigrant.”
Notably, Trump has not been vocal about his promise to build a wall since the election. Could he be changing his winning policy?
“I think it’s significant that he hasn’t repeated that claim,” said Pegler-Gordon. “It’s always been rhetoric for building his numbers.”