There currently exists 654 miles of fencing along the southern border, consisting of 354 miles of pedestrian fence and 300 miles of vehicle fence. 592 miles cover federal land, 60 miles cover private land, and just 2 miles occupy tribal land. The current type of fencing is varied based on whether it is pedestrian or vehicle fencing and based on terrain; it includes wire mesh, chain link, post and rail, sheet piling, concrete barriers, and steel beam fencing.
As of May 2010, the Department of Homeland Security’s Secure Border Initiative (SBI) program—implementing the 2006 Secure Fence Act signed into law by President George W. Bush—spent $2.6 billion on tactical infrastructure (pedestrian and vehicle fencing), and included 646 of 652 miles of fencing along the southwest border. The pedestrian border fencing completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2007 was estimated to cost about $2.8 million per mile; the fencing completed in 2008 by private contractors cost about $3.9 million per mile. The 20-year lifecycle costs for all tactical infrastructure is estimated to be an additional $6.5 billion. Note: an additional $1.6 billion was allocated to SBInet for surveillance technology.
Border Wall Breakdown
Project: Tactical infrastructure (pedestrian and vehicle fencing)
Miles completed: 646 of 652
Cost per mile (government): $2.8M
Cost per mile (private contractor): $3.9M
Total cost: $2.6B
Maintenance, 20 year lifecycle: $6.5B
Source: May 4, 2010 GAO Secure Border Initiative Report
There remains approximately 1,300 miles of border without a fence; President Trump aims to fence 1,250 miles.
Estimated Cost of 2018 Border Wall
Replacing existing fencing with steel-bollard design: $8.5M per mile
Adding tactical infrastructure fencing over ~1,300 miles: $21.6B
Maintenance, 20 year lifecycle: ~$13B
Source: Comprehensive Government Funding Bill, released May 1, 2017
Whereas SBI focused on fencing land primarily owned by the federal government, the Trump Administration intends to acquire and purchase private land, a costly and arduous eminent domain process. Second, the terrain is often hazardous and unstable, making a physical barrier futile. Finally, evidence demonstrates the need for a physical southern border is drastically reduced. In FY17, there were a total of 310,531 apprehensions nationwide, the lowest number in at least 17 years.