The price tab projected by Trump’s opponents far exceeds previous estimates, which topped out at $21.6 billion. The Democrats’ report is based on extrapolations, not hard data. It says that although the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Patrol have not provided a “reliable cost estimate” for President Trump’s signature campaign promise, the party has reached its projections using information provided by CBP officials, including the Trump administration’s 2017 budget request and 2018 budget proposal.
The Trump administration has redirected $20 million to begin the construction of border wall prototypes in San Diego and start the planning process to erect barriers in parts of Texas. But that sum is only the beginning. In Trump’s budget proposals, funding for the wall jumps to $999 million in the 2017 supplemental request and $2.6 billion in the 2018 blueprint. From there, Democrats estimate the cost of the wall could reach some $36.6 million per mile.
If the barrier spans the 1,827 miles of land officials have deemed suitable for construction, the price tag could reach $66.9 billion, according to Democrats—three times as much as official estimates.
“That amounts to a total cost to every American man, woman, and child of over $200,” the report notes.
That projection does not include land-acquisition costs, though the report notes that costs increase when the federal government has had to go to court. (In one case noted in the document, the government paid $4.7 million for a 3.1-acre parcel for which they initially offered $233,000.) The $66.9 billion figure also does not include the cost of border wall maintenance, which the Committee report estimates could be as high as $150 million a year.
Given some of DHS Secretary John Kelly’s own statements, the Democrats’ estimation may be too high. Kelly testified in April that the wall will consist of barriers placed at strategic locations, rather than an unbroken span stretching “from sea to shining sea.” Kelly has also said a wall alone will not be enough to deter illegal immigration. “It has to be a layered defense,” Kelly said at his confirmation hearing.
The report’s release comes as Trump’s proposed border wall prepares to take center stage in a fractured Congress next week. With a deadline to fund the government on the horizon, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has warned Republicans not to include wall funding in the upcoming must-pass spending bill.