The Commercial Appeal

Border wall estimate: $21.6 billion

Total in Homeland Security report nearly double cost cited by Trump

- Rafael Carranza

PHOENIX Building a wall or other barrier along the entire U.S.-Mexico border would cost about $21.6 billion and take up to 3½ years to complete, according to an internal Department of Homeland Secretary document.

The estimate is almost double the cost cited by President Donald Trump — who made a border wall built at Mexico’s expense his signature campaign issue. New Homeland Secretary John Kelly commission­ed the report.

Responding to the higher total Saturday morning, Trump tweeted: “I am reading that the great border WALL will cost more than the government originally thought, but I have not gotten involved in the design or negotiatio­ns yet. When I do, just like with the F-35 FighterJet or the Air Force One Program, price will come WAY DOWN!”

The document containing the estimate, first reported by Reuters, lays out a three-phase plan about where constructi­on could begin along the 1,250 miles of border without physical barriers and it details challenges to constructi­ng a wall.

But the report also leaves questions unanswered, namely what the wall would look like.

Kelly toured the ArizonaMex­ico border near Nogales on Thursday and met with Gov. Doug Ducey, officials from the federal agencies under DHS and the state’s four border sheriffs. One purpose of those meetings was to gauge their opinion of the usefulness of a wall.

“We talked about the value of technology in some areas and physical structures in others, but there’s a lot to be vetted out in that,” Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier said.

Trump previously has said a border wall would cost between $10 billion and $12 billion. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told congressio­nal Republican­s during a private retreat in Philadelph­ia the cost would be closer to $12 billion to $15 billion.

The higher estimate in the Homeland report is due in large part to the ballooning costs of acquiring private land, including through eminent domain. Large sections of the border, particular­ly in Texas, are privately owned.

“People’s individual property will be condemned by the federal government for constructi­on of the wall,” Denise Gilman told The Arizona Republic. “That’s what happened in the past. And that’s what would have to happen.”

She led an effort in 2013 at the University of Texas Law School to document fencing already in place at the TexasMexic­o border. They found barriers erected less than a decade ago had effectivel­y stripped owners of their property, or cut it in two.

According to the internal document, the first phase of constructi­on would begin in September, covering some 26 miles overall in San Diego, El Paso and the Rio Grade Valley in south Texas.

The Arizona border is included in the second phase, covering 151 miles. That phase would also cover additional parts of Texas, in Laredo and the Big Bend area. The final phase would cover the remaining sections.

Constructi­on would take up to 3½ years, the document states. That time frame differs from what Kelly told Fox News recently, saying the wall would be completed within two years.

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John Kelly

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