Opinion—What are the economic benefits of President Trump’s wall?

Oct 11, 2017

By Don Wallis

The wall could be a boon to the construction industry

It remains unclear whether the security barrier along the border between Mexico and the United States should or will be built.

President Trump says the project will cost $12 to $15 billion. The Senate Democratic Report has the cost at $70 billion. Estimates by the Department of Homeland Security and the Washington Post, that are arguably more reasonable, place the cost between $22 and $25 billion.

Those numbers represent a tremendous amount of work for the construction industry for as long as it takes the wall to be completed. (Time-for-completion estimates also vary dramatically. This is one of the reasons for the cost-estimate discrepancies.)

Setting aside the social and political impact of the wall and foregoing as well the question of whether the wall will reduce illegal immigration and smuggling, it is worth asking to what extent the project will benefit the construction industry.

Part of the projected $22 billion price tag is for land acquisition. But a large portion of this amount will be for engineering, design, and the material and labor needed to erect the structure.

Construction companies working on the project will prosper as will the communities where these companies are located.

An economic benefit similar to what Boeing provides Seattle. But the wall will not boost the national economy to the all-encompassing extent the WPA infrastructure projects did after the Great Depression.

Will these economic benefits justify the huge outlay of money by the federal government? If they do, then construction of the wall may be worthwhile. Unfortunately, regardless of what supporters and critics of the wall postulate, we won’t know the answer to this question until after the project is completed.


THE WALL. The real costs of a barrier between the United States and Mexico, Vanda Felbab-Brown, Brooking Institute, August 2017 

Don Wallis has more than 40 years experience in residential and commercial construction, and land development. He also has a law degree and currently teaches Environmental Law at Santa Fe Community College.