What kind of approval does Donald Trump need to build his wall?


Can the president order the construction of a wall in the southern border just by himself, such as with an executive order?

What kind of approval does he need to initiate construction of such a wall?


Posted 2018-01-10T13:29:47.383

Reputation: 359


The approval of the Congress (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_budget_process).

– Trilarion – 2018-01-11T15:34:55.740

2None really. All he has to do is buy up a strip of land and start building, like his buildings. Maybe he will put his name on them too? Oh, you mean with taxpayer money!? – Chloe – 2018-01-11T23:06:22.260



The main problem is getting the money from congress.

The US executive has a budget plan which is made by Congress. This budget plan says how much money the President is allowed to spend for what purpose. Building a border fortification requires labor and material, and unless Trump can somehow find a way to get someone else to pay for it (good luck with that), these must be paid from the federal budget allocated for this purpose. Fortunately for Trump Congress decided last year to allocate $1.6 billion to improving border fortifications. Unfortunately this is still short of the $2.6 billion the Department of Homeland Security requested for this purpose.

If the Trump administration can somehow finance the construction, there might still be some minor local problems to solve. For example there are some environmental concerns. Improved border fortification doesn't just prevent people from migrating but also blocks the natural migration paths for animals. Environmental protection groups might go to court over this. Also, the building plans might interfere with local property rights. The US government can't just build fortifications on land owned by private people. When the owner doesn't want to sell, the government would have to try to acquire the land with eminent domain power. But when the owners are willing to put up a fight, this might require a lengthy lawsuit. At least one group is planning to exploit this to oppose Trump's border wall project.


Posted 2018-01-10T13:29:47.383

Reputation: 55 858

4Re the linked article labeled "Fortunately for Trump Congress decided last year to allocate $1.6 billion to improving border fortifications". That wasn't Congress, it was the House, and it wasn't an allocation (aka appropriation), it was an authorization. Funny things happen to the US federal budget between the House and Senate, and between authorizations and appropriations. – David Hammen – 2018-01-10T23:32:22.493

4Hold on, the US doesn't own enough of a strip of land along its border to build a wall? – J Atkin – 2018-01-10T23:32:29.040

@JAtkin not the federal government. Some of the land near the border is owned by third parties. See the last link on the answer. – Mindwin – 2018-01-11T13:18:04.780

1@Mindwin - This isn't a nation-wide winning strategy. The amount of land owned by a single owner would be tiny (even acres of land is tiny when considering the scale of something as wide as this national border). If some owner was particularly problematic, the government could just build the wall on the North side of that particular land, essentially isolating that land from the rest of America (suitably penalizing the land owners for such extensive non-cooperation). And even a wall hole of acres would be easier for Border Patrol to patrol heavily than the entire border. – TOOGAM – 2018-01-11T13:25:51.590

1@TOOGAM I'd be surprised if the federal government could effectively cut somebody's private property off the rest of the country with a wall. If I were the land owner I'd take the government to court over that, and my layman's judicial gut feeling indicates I have a case. – Peter - Reinstate Monica – 2018-01-11T15:21:36.613

Re "environmental concerns": I suppose the federal government will have to file an environmental impact statement to California and Texas (not sure about Arizona and New Mexico), cf. the one from 2007 for the Rio Gande area. These can be challenged in court if deemed deficient.

– Peter - Reinstate Monica – 2018-01-11T15:34:00.957

@JAtkin to make matters worse, some American citizens own land that technically crosses the border, or exists entirely on Mexican soil. Building a wall would cut them off. Sucks for them. I have no idea why you would intentionally buy land that is on or across a border, be it state or national. – BlackThorn – 2018-01-11T23:29:13.417


In addition to money, property rights will be an issue.

In most parts of the country, the land is either privately owned, national/state park, or Indian land, right up to the line. In fact, in Arizona, one Native American tribe, the To'ono Odham, extends across the border into Mexico.

One of my neighbors owns border farmland. He told me that under Roosevelt, the Federal Government used eminent domain to secure a 60 foot wide easement coast-to-coast along the border, including across his land.

Recently, several media outlets have reported that Department of Justice is in the process of massively ramping up eminent domain processes along the border, so my assumption is that the government will try to either outright seize the properties, or vastly expand the width of the easement.

One area that will likely not be a problem is environmental reviews. With the RealID Act, Congress gave DHS the power to waive most laws, including environmental laws, that could slow down building the border fence.

This was very much a bipartisan law. The original RealID law was passed under George Bush in 2005, and

That power was further expanded under Obama in 2013.

Update: accepted suggested replacement of Indian with Native American.

I had originally avoided "Native American" because this is a US-centric term that seemed inappropriate for a tribe that is at least partially in Mexico. For lack of a more comprehensive term, I had used Indian. On second thought, neither term seems particularly fitting.

Kevin Keane

Posted 2018-01-10T13:29:47.383

Reputation: 887

It's worth noting that the makers of Cards Against Humanity intentionally bought some land on the US-Mexico border to prevent at least that part of the wall being built. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/cards-against-humanity-trump-border-wall-buy-land-stop-building-a8055396.html

– AJFaraday – 2018-01-11T09:34:30.540

2Are you saying that Roosevelt has already done the hard part of getting the land? – Stig Hemmer – 2018-01-11T09:43:20.933

@StigHemmer http://www.theodore-roosevelt.com/images/research/trproclamations/758.pdf

– DavePhD – 2018-01-11T19:38:48.633

Texas was not included by Roosevelt, just California, Arizona and New Mexico. – DavePhD – 2018-01-11T19:54:56.830

Nothing brings Republican and Democrat politicians together like quietly expanding government power. – jpmc26 – 2018-01-12T02:12:13.177

@AJFaraday Given the eminent domain process, I wonder how effective the Cards against Humanity approach will be. It may be enough to gum up the process with legal issues for a couple of years. – Kevin Keane – 2018-01-12T07:28:14.300

I think "Native American" is the correct terms, since "American" refers to The Americas, not to the United States of America. "Indian" is confusing it with people of India. – Bregalad – 2018-01-12T08:14:34.720

@Bregalad Technically, I agree, but I'm not sure if that applies here. In this context "American" seems to refer to specifically the United States of America. In Canada, for example, the equivalent term is "First Nation". I would be surprised to see Mexico's Tarahumara or Peru's Quechua described as Native Americans. I think the generic term would be "indigenous". But in the end - Native American is probably indeed the best choice. – Kevin Keane – 2018-01-12T08:25:56.833