During his first day of office, President Biden had proclaimed multiple executive orders and proposed new legislation in support of his campaign promises. One of the said executive orders was to halt the construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall and directed his administration to study and seek other possibilities for repurposing the project’s funding and construction contracts. Now Biden’s discretionary funding request for the Fiscal Year 2022 includes no additional funding for border wall construction and proposes canceling leftover wall funds from 2021.
The Trump administration completed more than 450 miles of 18- to 30-foot steel-bollard fencing topped with anti-climbing plates along stretches of the international boundary. Nearly 50 miles of these structures were constructed where no barriers existed. The rest were replacements for less effective fencing.
Border protection has been a hot topic in American politics since the early 1960’s, with nearly every administration addressing it by increasing security. The largest border-barrier construction campaign came under George W. Bush, whose 2006 Secure Fence Act brought about hundreds of miles of taller steel-bollard anti-pedestrian fencing in urban areas and shorter anti-vehicle structures in unpopulated zones. Barack Obama’s administration completed these projects, and by the end of his first term, 653 miles in total, or about one-third of the U.S.-Mexico line was barricaded with steel and concrete.
Thus, before Donald Trump ever declared his candidacy, or promised to build a wall, the United States’ southern border was already among the world’s most fortified international boundaries.
Trump’s movement is not just simply one of blatant nativism. But the “build that wall” message at the core of his campaign helps explain how a billionaire living in a lavishly gilded Manhattan penthouse appealed to millions of blue-collar White Americans trying to comprehend the country’s rapid demographic and cultural changes during an age of global economic restructuring.
So, what lies ahead? The Biden administration has been studying border enforcement possibilities involving less steel and concrete and more electronic surveillance. Meanwhile, environmentalists are pushing to dismantle sections of Trump’s wall in remote areas to allow the free movement of wildlife. But removing the new barriers entirely would be incredibly expensive, and a future Republican administration might only rebuild them.
The reinforced wall will probably just be an enduring legacy of Trump’s presidency, symbolizing the recurring folly of border policy disconnected from the true historical realities of the border and its migration.