On Thursday, while on board Air Force One en route to Paris, President Donald Trump told reporters that he no longer believes we need a 2,000-mile border between the United States and Mexico. Instead, he said we need “anywhere from 700 to 900 miles.” And he wants it to be see-through.
“It’s a 2,000-mile border, but you don’t need 2,000 miles of wall because you have a lot of natural barriers. You have mountains,” Trump said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “You have some rivers that are violent and vicious. You have some areas that are so far away that you don’t really have people crossing.”
The border wall was perhaps the keystone campaign promise in Trump’s presidential bid. He often described it as a “big, beautiful, powerful wall,” and as Mic reported in January, Trump even want so far as to say it would be easy to construct, so long as “you know what you’re doing.”
And while he has admitted in the past that we really only need “1,000 miles” of additional border protection it appears the great wall is shrinking again. The “700 to 900 miles” comment, which the Tribune noted was initially not allowed to be reported, seems to signal either a walk back of the promise, or simply that Trump finally understands what many knew for months: Building a border wall is not as easy as it sounds.
In 2016, Trump told MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, “The wall is going to cost a fraction of that, maybe $10 or $12 billion, and it’s going to be a real wall. It’s going to be a high wall. It’s going to be a beautiful — it’s going to be a wall that works.”
However, as MIT estimated, the Trump-sized 2,000 mile wall would actually cost more like $38 billion.
But even his new shortened version would cost more than meets the eye, as Trump also told reporters that the wall must be transparent so border agents don’t get hit with “sacks of drugs.”
“You have to be able to see through it,” he said. “As horrible as it sounds, when they throw the large sacks of drugs over, and if you have people on the other side of the wall, you don’t see them. They hit you on the head with 60 pounds of stuff? It’s over.”
The Chicago Tribune did note that while smugglers have often tried to throw contraband over the wall, including via the use of catapults, it’s unclear if anyone has actually ever been struck by anything.
Additionally, when asked if he was “joking” about the wall also being solar-powered Trump replied, “No, not joking, no. There is a chance that we can do a solar wall. We have major companies looking at that. Look, there’s no better place for solar than the Mexico border — the southern border. And there is a very good chance we can do a solar wall, which would actually look good. But there is a very good chance we could do a solar wall.”
Though a solar wall at least incorporates clean energy the entire project may be completely pointless. As Mic reported, net migration flow from Mexico has been negative since 2008. Moreover, illegal immigration from Mexico is declining and a report in the Journal on Migration and Human Security found that the number of people overstaying visas exceeded the number who entered across the southern land border between 2008 and 2012.