According to then candidate Donald J Trump's proposal, the US should build a wall on its southern border with Mexico. Seems every time he mentioned the wall in his rallies, his crowd cheered and were motivated. Recently some Texas Republicans suggest that there won't be a physical wall and instead, it is more of Trump's metaphor of strengthening border security. However, Trump did say the wall will be an "impenetrable, physical, tall, beautiful Southern border wall" (Phoenix, Arizona rally) and signed an Executive Order to start constructing the wall on January 25, 5 days into his first term presidency.

Now that building a wall is the reality, I came up with several methods that are better than a wall, and wonder why these methods, which could be cheaper and more effective, are not being considered by the White House:

  • A fence similar to the Saudi-Iraqi border fence or the high-tech Israeli-Sinai one. Because a metal fence is easier for installing/attaching devices capable of detecting large animals (including human) climbing on it. Also it is less expensive than a concrete wall that the Trump campaign proposed to Miami-based condo developer Jorge Pérez.
  • According some media, the wall is much more expensive than what the Trump campaign claims, because there are extra border security involved. Now in March 2017, according to the Los Angeles Times, Trump administration is going to "rapidly expand" the number of Border Patrol agents by 5000. As I understand these agents are federal employees and enjoys pensions and other benefits that are paid by tax payers. Why not instead ask Governors from border states to mobilize their National Guard or State Highway Troopers to patrol their respective sections of the border during seasons with higher number of illegal crossings?
  • How about a mine field that is not near any official border crossings, similar to the DMZ between North and South Korea?

I personally feel that constructing a concrete wall will be not as effective and could be a waste of federal tax revenues, but the wall proposal is popular among US voters at the moment and during election seasons 2016, any explanations?

  • 11
    There was only one option presented: a wall. It's not like they were voting for a particular type of structure. In the end, a chunk weren't even voting for something concrete (no pun intended)...it was more the abstract concept of "doing something to stop illegal immigration".
    – user1530
    Mar 30, 2017 at 21:54
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    It's worth adding that half of illegal immigrants come here legally and overstay. We don't want to say no to tourists and student visas. We benefit from those. Build a perfect wall, they'll come by boat like the Cubans came, or how refugees now arrive in Greece. Nobody's going to wall off our California beaches, so then what, triple the coast guard? At some point you have to ask if the expense is worth the trouble.
    – userLTK
    Mar 31, 2017 at 0:35
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    Theory: everyone played a little bit too much "Age of Empires" in the 2000s.
    – user4012
    Mar 31, 2017 at 13:16
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    I was going to comment that landmines are illegal under international law given the Ottawa Treaty but it turns out the US is not party to this agreement...
    – Gramatik
    Jan 11, 2019 at 20:14

3 Answers 3


Many people are frustrated by many of the issues of the border. An "impenetrable, physical, tall, beautiful Southern border wall" is a good image to many of them. The idea of a solid barrier might also imply being a long term solution not subject to major changes with each administration.

Current technical and fence based defenses have been criticized as ineffective, and if you take him at his word and he seems to, an impenetrable wall might greatly deter the human trafficking on its own and simplify the job of other border protection forces.

The president seems to take pride in doing the things he said he'd do, and this is something he said. Some negotiation may be necessary as the project proceeds, but it would be out of character to push for less than he's called for.

There are non-trivial reasons a serious wall is not the worst way to limit the border.

Land mines: The very very best we could hope from such a plan would be hundreds or thousands of dead people a year instead of the dozens we have now. Careful navigation through is often considered possible if not practical. And I would worry about who would guard those military grade explosives designed to be hard to detect from falling into the wrong hands. Land mines are only considered useful in Korea because the expected attack is massed invasion, and they are supported by active military units. Also they would hamper local (American) use of the areas.

Active defenses like active military or pervasive technical observation: Is expensive, and vulnerable to political change. No sooner would a plan be created than a new administration could rewrite or repeal it.

Transparent barriers like fences: There have been several demonstrated or theoretical quick cheap circumventions of existing fences. Like going over by standing on a pickup or cutting through with power tools that would require significant maintenance and monitoring budgets to defend against. They also are universally considered ugly.

A well planned and well made wall might pay for itself over its life time in reduced maintenance and other protections. It could add jobs for a long time while it is being made. And if finished before a new administration there would be little that could be done to (figuratively) undermine it.

  • This is a good start to an answer, but it needs to be seriously expanded. IE I can think of a dozen other "implementable, physical" ways for border security, so why not one of those? Also, while I agree with you that the wall is silly, answers here should be political neutral. Please reduce the snarkyness. Mar 31, 2017 at 1:28
  • I now have more (but hopefully less offensive snarks), and removed what I consider the highest compliment of a politician. But I think it's more neutral and certainly expanded.
    – user9389
    Mar 31, 2017 at 3:43
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    Way better answer, +1. Mar 31, 2017 at 3:48
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    A good answer. I think more needs to be said about the perceived permanence of a wall vs other solutions. In particular, any discussion of this issue is incomplete without mention of the immigration reform that was already passed in the 1980s only to have the amnesty implemented without the enforcement. People in favor of stopping illegal immigration are extremely distrustful of the government's willingness to carry through on the enforcement side of any reform.
    – Readin
    Apr 1, 2017 at 19:20
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    "dead people a year instead of the dozens we have now" needs to change. According to Wikipedia ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… ): "The number of deaths reported in US Federal fiscal year 2015 (ending 30 Sept) was 240, which was the lowest number in at least 18 years." The LA Times reports more than 100 in Arizona alone. latimes.com/nation/…
    – Readin
    Apr 1, 2017 at 19:24

A minefield would be a lingering hazard, even if policies were changed in the future. It is also fairly straight-forward to breach: Buy a large herd of goats (or other animals), and drive them through the minefield.

A mostly-transparent wall (like the Israeli fence along the Egyptian border) makes a lot of sense.

Effective enforcement of any border requires both considerable expense to monitor it, and the ruthlessness to kill people who refuse to abide by the enforcement of the border.

Just to be clear, I am not advocating murder instead of deportations, but I am pointing out that an implied threat of violence backs up police (and military) actions such as deportations.

  • 12
    A large number of these people are escaping real violence. So it'd take quite the threat to discourage them.
    – user1530
    Mar 30, 2017 at 22:53
  • Not immediately escaping violence- Mexico is safe enough. Feb 18, 2019 at 6:40

People choose a border wall because are unaware how effective fibre optics is at detection of people and discerning of non-people crossing the border. Border enforcement is nowhere as expensive or troublesome when you only detect the location of humans. Border patrol don't have to ruthless killers for non-hostile - they can just force handcuffs on. https://www.businessinsider.com/fiber-optic-sensing-technology-vs-border-wall-2019-2

  • Is this an answer to the question or an advertisement for fibre-optic technology? It looks more like the latter to me.
    – F1Krazy
    Feb 17, 2019 at 18:09
  • The other answers are propaganda against other solutions. Feb 18, 2019 at 6:41
  • The question is, "Why do voters want a border wall instead of these other solutions?" The other answers state, "The other solutions have the following problems, hence, people prefer the border wall". It's not propaganda, they're actually answering the question. (Obviously, the border wall has its own problems, but that's not what's being asked about.)
    – F1Krazy
    Feb 18, 2019 at 6:48

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