PUBLISHED FEB 14, 2019

US & Mexico Border Wall: What's already there

The Story

President Trump has been promising to build a southern border wallalong the US-Mexico border since he launched his presidential campaign in 2015. He argues it’s necessary to crack down on drugs, crime, and terrorism.

What does he mean when he says ‘wall’?

A 1,000-mile wall made of concrete or steel.

For perspective, how long is the entire border?

Nearly 2,000 miles long. More than 650 miles already has some sort of barrier (think: wire mesh, chain link). There are also areas where the natural terrain (like a river or desert) make crossing difficult.

If I said I was more of a visual person...

US-Mexico border wall


This is what a section of the US-Mexico border fence looks like from Tijuana, Mexico. If you want even more visuals, here you go.

Tell me more about the different kinds of barriers.

Some – like tall wire mesh fencing – are built with the goal of keeping people from crossing. Others – like shorter criss-crossing metal posts – are built to keep cars from crossing but not necessarily people. The Trump admin has eight prototypes for potential future kinds of barriers, including some made of concrete.

Back to drugs and crime...will a wall help?

Some say no. For a few reasons:

  • Barriers aren’t stopping drugs. Most drugs come through legal ports of entry.
  • Barriers aren’t stopping undocumented immigrants from coming to and living in the US – people are still fleeing their home countries due to violence. And most undocumented immigrants are here on an expired visa.
  • Barriers won’t address terrorist threats, because there is no evidence that terrorists are using the southern border to enter the US. Trump has argued that a wall is necessary for combatting terrorism.

So that’s a no?

Not necessarily. There’s evidence that barriers along areas like the one between Tijuana and San Diego have made crossing the border more difficult. Some people argue that in densely populated areas, barriers are important for making sure that border crossings don’t turn into a chaotic free-for-all. Others say it’s complicated – that different parts of the border need different solutions. EG: more rural parts don’t necessarily need a physical barrier but maybe could use drones and other tech to track crossings.

Want more?

We have more Skimm on how much a full wall would cost, the latest border crossing numbers, the impact on the environment, and more in theSkimm app. If you download the app now, you can text us your questions each week on a different news topic and get an exclusive Skimm FAQ. Psst: the first week is free.

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