In summary

Despite his executive order pushing ahead with a border wall, nobody is seriously advocating a solid wall from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific. A barrier already lines more than a third of the 1,900-mile southern border, and even President Trump suggests he’ll leave nearly half of that without a wall. Nor are House Republicans promising to pay for much more.

The border runs about 1,900 miles from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. Some sort of barrier—made from concrete, steel mesh and/or barbed wire—currently stands along about a third of it, in areas U.S. Customs and Border Protection deems vulnerable to illicit cross-border activity. Some segments are a solid metal wall; others are composed of various materials and have spaces between barriers or mesh, making those sections less a wall than a fence.

Originally President Trump said he wanted a solid wall, 35 to 40 feet high, but later he backed away from that and said it could include other types of barriers like fencing. The executive order he issued this past week says: “Wall shall mean a contiguous, physical wall or other similarly secure, contiguous and impassable physical barrier.”

But his order does not specify a wall or fence along every mile of the border. Even Trump himself, as early as last February, acknowledged in an MSNBC interview: “We don’t need 2,000 (miles), we need 1,000 because we have natural barriers…” There are also other prohibitions, such as a decades-old treaty with Mexico that bans any barriers from blocking the flow of rivers. And the Tohono O’odham Nation Native American reservation, which resides on border territory, has already said no to Trump’s plan. To override that tribal resistance, the Trump administration would need a congressional bill condemning the land and taking it from the reservation’s trust.

As to the cost, President Trump originally said his wall would cost about $8 to $12 million. Other cost estimates have run much higher. Remember, the intent of that Act, passed under the Bush administration, was to double-fence just 700 miles of the border—almost all of which have at least a single barrier now. Read the full CALmatters story:

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Elizabeth Aguilera is an award-winning multimedia journalist who covers health and social services for CalMatters. She joined CalMatters in 2016 from Southern California Public Radio/KPCC 89.3 where she...