Border Wall Basics: What You Need To Know About the Shutdown

By Julia Schilz and Elizabeth Fedro

As of today, January 23, we are on day 34 of the longest government shutdown in American history. The shutdown is caused by a dispute over border wall funding, and neither Republicans nor Democrats have shown any willingness to compromise. However, most people know very little about the current state of the border wall. That’s why we are here to give you some basic background on it 🙂

“The border” refers to the US-Mexico border, which spans California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, and the Mexican states Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas. The border is almost 2,000 miles long, and over a third of it is protected by constructed barriers. The degree of protectiveness at the border varies at different locations– at some places, there is just “vehicular fencing” which would stop a car but is easily stepped over. Other places have taller fencing that blocks people traveling on foot. Some of the border protection is even made out of repurposed Vietnam War helicopter landing pads!

We all know Trump wants a true wall at the border. It was one of his earliest promises on the campaign trail and he seems determined to deliver results to his base, no matter the other consequences (aka 800,000 federal workers not receiving paychecks, among other things).

Last year, $1.375 billion was approved for further border barrier construction. Under these measures, a concrete wall will be built at a new section of the border in February. 8 construction companies have tested prototypes for a border wall, each resulting in various degrees of protection. However, the Trump administration demands $5.7 billion now for “construction & reinforcement” over 234 more miles.

Is there actually a crisis at the border?

This is a hotly debated question at the moment. However, many experts have analyzed data that suggest that there is not, in fact, a crisis at the border, at least not in the way Trump sees it. In reality, the amount of border apprehensions is only 25% of what it was in 2000!

How many people are not receiving pay right now?

800,000 federal workers

Will my mail still arrive?

Yes, approximately 500,000 postal service employees are not affected from the shutdown. This is because the Postal Service is self-funded.   

Will I be able to visit national parks/monuments/attractions?

The Trump Administration plans to keep national parks “as accessible as possible”, keeping national parks open during the shutdown. However, services that require National Park Service staff (concessions, campground patrol, etc.) will be closed.

Will furloughed federal employees (employees that are currently not receiving pay) be compensated in the future?

This is decided by the Congress and the White House. Ideally, the precedent for this circumstance is that employees will later be repaid through the enactment of legislation.

What is the total economic hit from the shutdown?

Experts predict that $24 billion in total costs will hurt the US economy as a result of the shutdown- the causes of this include stalled private-sector activity and a decline in consumer/investor confidence. Even the White House has publically recognized that the shutdown will hit the US economy harder than they expected.

Who is most affected by the government shutdown?

Federal workers (TSA employees, librarians), and the stock market among many others

The states most affected by the shutdown:

  1. District of Columbia
  2. California
  3. Texas
  4. Virginia
  5. Maryland