The border between the US and Mexico is about 1,952 miles long. The current US president, known for making real estate deals, previously wanted to build a large wall along the entire length of the border, a very costly prospect.

Depending on the costs of North Mexican real estate compare to the costs of a border wall, it could be cheaper to do something like the Louisiana Purchase or Alaska purchase, down to a point where the border is shorter, or otherwise tweak/smooth out the border to reduce the costs of constructing a wall. This could be politically popular in the US, and overpayment for the land could be accompanied by an announcement that Mexico would pay for the lower-cost wall (from the proceeds of the overpayment).

Map of mexico

Who all would need to be convinced in order for such a deal to go through, and what other political obstacles would have to be overcome?

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    So Mexico's options are: Pocket the billions of dollars of "overpayment" that it is entitled to keep for itself, or give it back by building someone else's politically contentious project for another nation, which is likely to the detriment of your own nation? Logic says you take the money and flip the bird to the fool who thought you'd do otherwise. – zibadawa timmy Jul 14 '17 at 0:59
  • @zibadawatimmy The agreement to pay for the wall would be part of the deal. Mexico probably wouldn't actually see the money, and it'd be substantively the same as the US paying a lower price for the land and then also paying for the wall, but with a different framing that makes it way more politically popular among the "deal-maker" US President's base of support. – WBT Jul 14 '17 at 2:37
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    "Who all would need to be convinced in order for such a deal to go through?" = congress and Mexico. – user1530 Jul 14 '17 at 5:23
  • @blip Who exactly in Mexico? – WBT Jul 14 '17 at 17:31
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    I think this question really misses the stated and unstated-but-obvious purposes of the border wall. It's to keep the Mexicans out, no? But if you move the border south, a lot of the Mexicans that the wall-builders don't want in the US are now inside the new border. – jamesqf Jul 14 '17 at 17:57
  1. Buying land is expensive. The question assumes that it will be more expensive than building the wall. If the wall is already contentious, why would land be easier?

  2. Why would the United States want land currently in Mexico?

  3. The land in question currently has people on it. What happens to them? If the US is buying land to build a wall to keep Mexicans out, it seems counter-productive to then redo the border such that some of the same people are now in.

  4. If the people don't stay with the land, where do they go? How are they removed?

  5. What would that territory be after it became part of the US? A new state? What?

  6. The wall is partially built, roughly half done. It's supposed to be double-layer fencing. A vehicle fence and a pedestrian fence. For most of the length, it is only a single layer fence. But that means that there is a single layer fence for most of the distance where fencing makes sense. If you move the border, that fence is in the wrong place. How much will it cost to either move or redo that fence, even with a shorter border?

  7. A significant portion of the border is natural barriers. The replacement border might be shorter but still more difficult to fence.

  8. A quick search found a ranch for sale for $470 an acre, which is about $300,000 a square mile. I have no idea if that's typical or not. How many people will have to be bought off?

  9. What would the US government do with the land? Sell it? Make it a no-man's zone? A park? Military base?

It might make more sense to go the other way. Sell El Paso, Laredo, McAllen, and some border counties to Mexico. Use the proceeds to pay for a new border wall on the other side of those areas. Those areas have high Hispanic populations, so they might be more willing to do such a switch. But it seems rather unlikely.

It's doubtful that Mexico will accept previous prices for land. Note that

Louisiana Purchase: roughly $250 million in 2016 money, 828,000 square-miles
Gadsden Purchase: roughly $290 million today, 29,670-square-miles
Alaska Purchase: roughly $123 million today, 586,412 square-miles

The Gadsden Purchase was with Mexico. It was the most expensive in modern money, but it involved the least acreage. It was almost $10,000 per square mile in modern money. At that rate, the Alaska purchase would have been something like $6 billion and the Louisiana purchase would have been over $8 billion.

The process for the Gadsden Purchase was that the ambassador negotiated a deal with the Mexican government. The US ratified the deal and then Mexico did. Things were likely simpler at the time, because government was much less formal and intrusive. It mattered less which side of the border people were on. Modernly they might have to do a referendum first.

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  • 1: "The question assumes that it will be more expensive than building the wall" Not necessarily; it proposes that the reduction in wall cost might be greater than the land cost, which would together cost less than what the US would have to pay for the wall along the existing border. Reducing total costs would make the project less contentious (even if not by much). 2: POTUS being able to claim expansion of national borders as a result of his excellent deal-making capabilities would probably be a big political win, and it would make [the United States of] America literally greater than it was. – WBT Jul 14 '17 at 17:28
  • 3. Much of the land near the border does not have people on it, so this is only a partial issue. 4. I think that issue is part of the question. 5. Probably depends on the amount of land; if it’s small it would just be added to a neighboring state but if it’s bigger it might wind up as a territory. 6. Source? 7. The idea is that especially a smaller land purchase could help better align the border with such barriers. After: Those cited purchases look extremely cheap next to the projected wall costs. – WBT Jul 14 '17 at 17:28
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    @WBT re #3, much of the land is owned by people. That's what was meant. People, in general, don't like their land taken away unless they get paid well for it, so it's likely that land could easily cost more than building a wall would. – user1530 Jul 14 '17 at 18:22
  • @blip: Land prices aren't really relevant here, since what would be sold is sovereignity, not the land itself. That is, the people that owned the land in Mexico would still own the land when it became part of the US. – jamesqf Jul 16 '17 at 17:12

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