Hey Mr. Trump!
There is no doubt about it. A significant number of Americans are really excited about your plans to build a Wall along the entire US border with Mexico. And for all Americans, whether we support the Wall or not, it is clear that it would become a defining icon of our nation. Rivaling, perhaps, even the Statue of Liberty. Think about that for a moment.
I can’t wait to see the budget for this enormous project. And the timeline! I know a bit about government contracts, but I have to admit that I am having trouble imagining the scope of this undertaking. As I think about it, a few questions occur to me. Could you give us a little hint about some of the logistics?
My first question is the obvious one. WHO is going to provide the labor for this project? The same sorts of folks who rebuilt NYC after 9/11, and New Orleans after Katrina? That would make sense. But unfortunately, that would be undocumented immigrants. Which would sort of defeat the purpose of your project, right?
Are you instead planning on hiring unionized labor? That would be great! Because there are clearly SO MANY people needed for a project of this scope.
Almost everyone working on the project would need to be relocated to temporary housing, of course. There are some urban centers within commuting distance of the border itself, so some workers will reside there. In more rural areas, small towns will be invaded by armies of workers. But long stretches of the border, hundreds and hundreds of miles, are in counties with a population density of less than 10 persons per square mile. Those regions, with no existing infrastructure, will present the biggest challenges.
So how is this all going to work?
I’m envisioning a small group of workers coming in first, being housed in trailers, to construct the roads to the villages that will need to be built to house everyone, as well as a road along the perimeter of the wall. Then a second wave of laborers to build the temporary villages. Finally, the actual Wall workers, and everyone associated with the project would arrive. You will need enormous kitchens to feed the hundreds, (thousands?) of human beings residing in each of the multiple of temporary villages. Medical facilities. Recreational facilities. Law enforcement. An extensive IT infrastructure.
The roads will be a major task. Thousands of miles of roads designed to transport millions of tons of equipment and raw materials. Along large parts of the border, there is just NOTHING THERE. So you would have to bring in EVERYTHING. Water. For bathing and cooking and washing dishes. Will you be filtering water from the Rio Grande? Or importing it from far away into the desert? Constructing reservoirs or pipes or just lots and lots of really big tanks?
There are just so many little things to think about.
For example, how have you addressed the issue of laundry in your budget? I suspect you won’t expect the laborers and engineers and chefs and doctors and law enforcement to bring their sheets and towels and clothes down to the river to wash by hand after a hard day’s work. Will you be constructing and installing laundry facilities? Or will you hire a fleet of trucks to transport workers’ laundry to the nearest urban center, and pay someone there to do the wash? I can’t even guess which would be more cost effective. I look forward to seeing how you have addressed this question in your budget.
And where, by the way, will these villages exist? Is there enough public land close enough to the border to make this happen? Or do you plan to lease the land from local ranchers and land owners? What if they refuse? I hate to bring this up, but you can understand why they might refuse.
Will you invoke eminent domain?
So are you planning on housing most folks in a bunker-like environment, with dozens of bunk beds and cubbies in each building? Will there be wifi for all of the workers, and a sufficient number of outlets for them to charge their phones and stay in touch with their families? That would be a lot of generators. Or do you plan to allocated each worker a limited number of Skype hours per week? Or do you plan to relocate not only the workers, but also their families for the scope of the project? In that case you will need schools. Playgrounds. Will the workers be putting in a 40-hour work week? If so, they will have a lot of free time on their hands. Vice could become a problem. If not, the law demands time and a half pay, or even double time pay for additional hours. This is going to be really expensive, either way.
So yeah. Villages to house thousands of workers and everyone else associated with this project. And roads to get to the villages. And more roads to get from the villages to the work sites.
You have stated repeatedly that you will get this done on time, and on budget! That is a truly noble ambition. You haven’t given us a timeline yet, but I’m assuming you have worked in a plan to meet with members of local communities to solicit information about how this enormous project will impact on their lives. Right? That is the way democracy is supposed to work, isn’t it?
On the topic of your timeline, I’m really at a loss to even make a guestimate. I mean, there are no comparable projects. The second phase of the Panama Canal, 48 miles long, took the US ten years after the French had abandoned the project. About 25,000 people died in the construction process. You are probably going to have to aim for a somewhat shorter timeframe, and a significantly lower death toll if you hope to keep your supporters cheering at every mention of the Wall. The Berlin Wall, 96 miles long, and situated in an urban center with an easily accessible workforce, was built in phases over decades. The fortified version, which was started in 1961, took about 4 years to construct.
So let’s say it is all true. You have a reasonable plan. A budget and timeline and respect for the local ecosystem and support from the local communities necessary to pull it off. You have plans to attract the necessary labor, and then meet their needs during the project.
You have experience in major construction projects. Maybe you have taken this all into account.
And let’s say that you are successful. The Wall is built. A continuous Wall, over mountains and bodies of water and vastly diverse landscapes. The temporary villages are dismantled, and everything is cleaned up and restored to its previous state.
So then we have a Wall. A Beautiful Wall! And it will be really hard to cross the border by foot.
What will change as a result of this Wall?
I explore that question in Trump’s Wall Part 2: The Impact.
[otw_shortcode_button href=”https://justnomore.com/uncategorized/trumps-wall-part-2/” size=”medium” icon_position=”left” shape=”square”]Trump’s Wall Part 2[/otw_shortcode_button]
Photo by Bruce Armstrong