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Donald Trump is getting serious about his border wall. Could it actually happen?

Maybe, but it’s expensive.

Trump Inauguration Donald Trump dons his 'Make America Great Again' hat. Source: Jae C. Hong/AP

US PRESIDENT DONALD Trump reaffirmed his campaign pledge yesterday and dispelled any doubts about whether he literally wanted to build a wall on the Mexican border.

Trump signed an executive decree that seeks to kickstart the process and later told ABC News that construction would start “in months”.

“As soon as we can, as soon as we can physically do it,” Trump said.

I would say in months, yeah. I would say in months, certainly planning is starting immediately.

The pledge to build the wall has been among Trump’s most controversial proposals, and it was certainly his most talked about promise during the early Republican primaries.

Aside from the xenophobia of building a border wall to keep out what Trump described as the “drugs and rapists” from Mexico, people have also speculated about whether such a barrier is even possible.

So is it?

Source: TheRealNews/YouTube

This question has been looked at by a range of different US news organisations over the past year. Most concluded that while it would not be impossible to build such a wall, the cost involved makes it incredibly unlikely to happen.

But if it happens, the cost will be many multiples of what Trump has promised. His estimates have varied from between $4 billion to $12 billion.

Trump himself has also fluctuated widely on exactly what the wall will be like, stating that it could be anywhere between 30-55 feet tall.

Such variation will of course have a major effect on the eventual cost.

As it stands, the US border with Mexico already has a significant portion that is currently divided by walls or fencing.

The United States’ total land border with Mexico is about 2,000 miles long across four states. About 700 miles is fenced, largely because of George W. Bush’s 2006 Secure Fence Act.

Trump has said that he wants at least 1,000 miles of wall, mostly along the Texan portion of the border.

“I’m talking about precasts going up probably 35 to 40 feet up in the air. That’s high, that’s a real wall,” Trump told MSNBC in February of last year.

The Washington Post put a figure of about $42 billion for 1,000 miles of 25-foot concrete wall and later said that another estimate put the cost at $25 billion.

What are the problems? 

They are numerous, not least because much of the border is on privately-owned land.

Source: LastWeekTonight/YouTube

The landowners are largely ranchers who likely wouldn’t be keen on selling to the federal government.

It’s been suggested that the US version of a compulsory purchase order be used to take the land from the border dwellers.

This is known as eminent domain and if it was to be employed in the case of Trump’s wall, it would greatly delay and further increase cost.

Another problem is that many sections of the border are in literal deserted areas so roads would have to be built to transport the materials to the construction site.

Source: CNN/YouTube

The materials themselves are also a source of debate with the scale of the undertaking ruling out several types of construction method.

The most likely building process would be to use large cement wall panels that are enforced by steel bars. Trump himself has said this is what the wall would likely be built out of.

Aside from the huge financial burden of building such a wall, maintenance costs are also astronomical. Politico estimated that maintenance of a concrete wall would run about $750 million annually.

Poll: Do you think a wall along the US-Mexican border will actually be built? >

Read: Trump plan for a wall in Clare slammed by international experts >

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Rónán Duffy

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