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By Sylvia Longmire
Contributor, In Homeland Security
As America continues to wrap its head around Donald Trump’s victory in this year’s presidential election, his transition team is already working out Trump’s priorities for his first 100 days in office. President-elect Trump has made no secret that immigration and border security are listed among those priorities. However, budget concerns may impede his plans going forward after his inauguration in January.
Mass Deportation Plan Faces Significant Obstacles
During the campaign, Trump made it clear he favored mass deportations of immigrants residing illegally in the U.S. Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state and a member of Trump’s immigration policy transition team, told the Los Angeles Times, “There is vast potential to increase the level of deportations without adding personnel.”
Kobach also said Trump could boost deportations by more than 75 percent in his first year in office. Federal agents will likely return to raiding workplaces and checking workers’ status.
Although Kobach claims these increased deportations could occur without adding personnel to federal agencies, they can’t happen without incurring additional costs. According to the LA Times report, the cost of forcibly finding, arresting, detaining and ultimately flying or busing millions of people out of the country would be sizable. The number of successful deportations would depend on how many people would be deported and how fast they leave the U.S.
Also, a recent surge in families from Central America illegally crossing the border means that the 40,000 beds in U.S. detention centers are full. Creating additional space for deportees would require additional funding.
Border Fence Construction May Require New Legislation
Another of President-elect Trump’s more controversial priorities has been the completion of a border fence in the U.S. southwest and somehow getting Mexico to pay for it.
The U.S.-Mexico border is approximately 2,000 miles long, and the existing border fence is roughly 672 miles long. Roughly half of that is a pedestrian fence, meaning people can’t just pass through. The other half of the fence is a vehicle barrier.
These fence sections consist of large metal pieces that prevent cars and trucks from driving across the border. However, people easily climb over, under or through the fence to cross into the U.S.
Current legislation under the Secure Fence Act of 2006 requires the construction of 700 miles of double reinforcements. There is currently no legal mandate to fence the rest of the border, so it’s debatable whether or not President-elect Trump needs additional legislation to accomplish his goal.
Mexico Cannot Afford Massive Cost of Border Fencing
It is laughable to assume the Mexican government would ever pay for additional border fencing. It is more practical to take a look at potential U.S. budget appropriations for Trump’s fencing goals.
According to the LA Times, Trump said the wall could cost up to $12 billion to build. An analysis published by MIT Technology Review estimated the cost at $38 billion, nearly the entire annual budget for the 22 federal agencies in the Department of Homeland Security.
Resistance Possible if Government Seizes Private Land
Many people assume the cost of building border fencing only involves materials and labor without taking into account the cost of land appropriation. Most of the land without border fencing is in Texas, and most of that property is privately owned.
It could take years and more billions of dollars to legally negotiate acquisition of that land — potentially well beyond President-elect Trump’s time in office. Many of those property owners are also possible Trump supporters. Those landowners would not take kindly to their land being seized under eminent domain laws, despite any desires they have for increased border security.
Border Security Still Questionable in Future
Many questions remain as to how President-elect Trump will proceed once he takes office in January. There is no question border security and immigration will be at the top of his priority list. However, it will be interesting to see how he balances his priorities with both fiscal and political realities.