Ever since Donald Trump’s presidential announcement speech in June, when he proclaimed, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best…They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” the GOP presidential frontrunner has made building a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico a staple of his campaign.Despite the criticism the plan—and his xenophobic accompanying statements—has drawn, including the blustering real estate heir turned reality star getting dropped by NBC, Univision, and chided by Pope Francis, and the fact that walls historically, from Berlin to Israel to the Great Wall of China, haven’t been very effective, Trump has stood by his wall.
Well, on Sunday’s edition of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver demolished Trump’s silly wall plan.
“The border wall is one of the few policy proposals Trump has talked about in detail, so instead of mocking or dismissing it out of hand, tonight let’s take a serious proposal by a serious presidential candidate seriously,” announced Oliver.Trump initially said the border wall would cost $4 billion—though that estimate has grown to $12 billion—would be made of “hardened concrete,” “rebar,” and steel,” and would be anywhere from 35 to 55 feet in height. But according to Oliver, $12 billion doesn’t even come close to what this monstrosity would cost. If we work with the lowest estimated height, 35 feet, and The Donald’s suggested length, 1,000 miles, experts say it would run $10 billion for the concrete panels, $5 billion to $6 billion for the steel columns plus labor, $1 billion for concrete footing for the columns and a concrete foundation, $2 billion to build roads so 20-ton trucks can deliver the materials, and an additional 30 percent for engineering, design, and management. So that’s $25 billion already, and that’s just building the wall.
According to the Sierra Club, “The Congressional Budget Office estimates that wall maintenance costs will exceed the initial construction costs within seven years…” so, sayeth Oliver, “it’s a big, dumb thing that only gets more expensive over time. It’s like getting a pet walrus: You think it’s stupid now, wait until you learn what a bucket of sea cucumbers costs. You’ve not prepared for that!”
As for Trump’s theory that Mexico will pay for the wall—which he’s repeated ad nauseam—well, that’s probably not going to happen, either. The current treasury secretary of Mexico told The Guardian that “Mexico, under no circumstance, is going to pay for the wall that Mr. Trump is proposing,” while two former Mexican presidents said the country wouldn’t pay a cent for, in the words of Vicente Fox, “that fucking wall.”
Then there’s the problem of where we’d put the damn thing.
“Now, your instinct says ‘on the border,’ but even that is more difficult than it sounds,” said Oliver. “In 2006, George W. Bush signed the Secure Fence Act which called for 700 miles of fencing along the border—a project which, incidentally, then-Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton voted for. That fence ran into a lot of problems, though. For instance, in large stretches of Texas, the border consists of the Rio Grande, and typically, you can’t build a wall on the river, as a 1970 treaty prohibits building anything that may cause obstruction of normal flow of the river, and for that and other reasons, some parts of the border fence were built considerably inland.”
So, in Brownsville, Texas, the border fence was built inland—leaving an entire golf course stuck between Mexico and the United States’ border fence, as chronicled in the 2010 documentary The Fence. Furthermore, in Texas, most of the land along the Mexican border is owned by private citizens, so when the border fence was built, the federal government first used the power of eminent domain to condemn people’s private property, and then ended up suing hundreds of families after they refused to sign away the rights to their land.Oh, and that’s not all. “Michael Chertoff, then secretary of homeland security, signed a document giving his department the authority to waive 36 laws to build the fence, including the Endangered Species Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act,” said Oliver, which led to the desecration of Native American grave sites, with fragments of human remains found in machinery to build the wall. Plus, waiving the protections to wildlife to build the fence has endangered the survival of jaguars, pygmy owls, and other animals.
Oliver then threw to a 2006 Pew Research Center study stating, “Nearly half of all the unauthorized migrants now living in the United States entered the country legally through a port of entry such as an airport or a border crossing point” and then overstaying their visa. And guess what? “A wall can’t stop that!” exclaimed Oliver. Hell, even if we constructed the wall, it’s not likely it’d keep out drugs. The cartels could construct ladders with ropes, or use the methods they’ve already been using to ship drugs over the border, none of which would be stopped by a wall: deep tunnels, makeshift cannons, and catapults.
However, according to Oliver, “efficacy is beside the point. This wall is about making us feel safer. And here is where the racism and xenophobia that we put aside at the top of the piece really needs to be brought back, because while other politicians have supported barriers at the border, Donald Trump has been uncommonly clear about who we need to be protected from”—yes, the so-called rapists, drug dealers, and criminals that Trump thinks are crossing the border into America and wreaking havoc.
“While, yes, individual undocumented immigrants have committed horrible crimes, so, obviously have American citizens,” said Oliver, challenging Trump’s logic. “And in fact, researchers consistently find that immigrants are less—not more—crime-prone than their native-born counterparts. The crime rates among immigrants once here are in relatively tiny digits, which is something Donald Trump should frankly understand given that he has ten of them attached to his minuscule wrists.”
And, since Trump’s wall will cost an estimated $77 per person, Oliver has another plan in mind for the dough.
“If the main thing it’s going to get us is a warm sense of satisfaction inside, I suggest instead of building that wall, we use the money to buy every man, woman, and child in America a Palmer Waffle Iron,” said Oliver. “These beauties retail at $75 apiece, so we’d still have nearly $1 billion left over,” said Oliver. “This waffle iron plan will cost less, will do nearly as much to keep out immigrants and drugs, it won’t harm our relationship with our third-largest trading partner, if it is racist it’s only toward Belgians, and unlike Donald Trump’s wall, this makes fucking waffles!” “So come on, America!” he continued. “Let’s ask ourselves what kind of country do we want to wake up to? One that spends billions on an impossible, impractical symbol of fear, or one that smells like breakfast? Exactly!”