Mohammed Salem | Reuters
Migrants from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the United States, climb a border fence to cross illegally from Mexico to the U.S., in Tijuana, Mexico, December 21, 2018.
Neither the Homeland Security Department nor the White House provided clarification or evidence to substantiate the president’s claim in response to CNBC’s questions about that tweet.
While some estimates of the duration of the infrastructure project exceed Trump’s two-year time frame, it can be a challenge to make any precise estimates about the cost or length of the project, as some crucial variables have changed drastically since Trump first vowed to build the wall on the campaign trail.
Trump’s oft-repeated promise in 2016 that Mexico would pay for the wall electrified many of his supporters, even as Mexican officials rebuffed the claim. But the current deadlock over the partial government shutdown stems from Democratic leaders’ refusal to accept Trump’s request to spend $5.7 billion in U.S. taxpayers’ money as part of a deal to fund the full government.
Trump maintains that Mexico is still paying for the wall indirectly through new revenue and savings from a multilateral trade deal pending approval in Congress — though it’s unclear how the U.S.-Mexico-Canada-Agreement, USMCA, would pay for the barrier.
“Obviously I never meant Mexico would write a check,” Trump said Jan. 10 during a visit near the Texas-Mexico border. The new line is a far cry from 2016, when the Trump campaign considered multiple ways to “compel Mexico” to “make a one-time payment of $5-10 billion” to keep the U.S. from cutting off other funds it sends Mexico.
The structure of the barrier also appears to have changed. Trump reportedly described a concrete wall on the campaign, but his administration built multiple non-concrete prototypes in 2017. In December, Trump tweeted that “we are not building a Concrete Wall, we are building artistically designed steel slats,” adding that they will “go up fast.” On New Year’s Eve, however, he reasserted that “An all concrete Wall was NEVER ABANDONED.”
“Some areas will be all concrete but the experts at Border Patrol prefer a Wall that is see through,” Trump said.
Trump has more recently referred to a “wall or steel barrier” in his tweets.