Trump border 'wall' to cost $21.6 billion, take 3.5 years to build: internal report


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump's "wall" along the U.S.-Mexico border would be a series of fences and walls that would cost as much as $21.6 billion, and take more than three years to construct, based on a U.S. Department of Homeland Security internal report seen by Reuters on Thursday.

The report's estimated price-tag is much higher than a $12-billion figure cited by Trump in his campaign and estimates as high as $15 billion from Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The report is expected to be presented to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly in coming days, although the administration will not necessarily take actions it recommends.

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Life along Mexico's border with the United States
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Life along Mexico's border with the United States
IMPERIAL SAND DUNES, CA - SEPTEMBER 28: A digger removes sand drifts from the Mexican side of the U.S.-Mexico border fence on September 28, 2016 in the Imperial Sand Dunes recreation center, California. Without daily removal of the sand, the dunes would cover the fence and undocumented immigrants and smugglers could simply walk over it. The border stretches almost 2,000 miles between Mexico and the United States. Border security and immigration issues have become major issues in the U.S. Presidential campaign. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
TIJUANA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 25: People meet loved ones through the U.S.-Mexico border fence on September 25, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico. The U.S. Border Patrol opens the park on the American side in San Diego on weekends to meet through the fence with family and friends through the fence at Tijuana. The park is one of the few places on the 2,000-mile border where separated families are allowed to meet. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
TIJUANA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 24: Haitian refugees look over donated items at an immigrant center on September 24, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico. In recent months a surge of Haitian refugees has arrived to Tijuana, seeking asylum at the border crossing into the United States. The center, called the Desayunador Salesiano Padre Chava, serves breakfast to more than 1,000 immigrants daily, many of them deportees from the United States. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
IMPERIAL SAND DUNES, CA - SEPTEMBER 28: A digger removes sand drifts along the U.S.-Mexico border fence on September 28, 2016 in the Imperial Sand Dunes recreation center, California. Without daily removal of the sand, the dunes would cover the fence and undocumented immigrants and smugglers could simply walk over it. The border stretches almost 2,000 miles between Mexico and the United States. Border security and immigration issues have become major issues in the U.S. Presidential campaign. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
TIJUANA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 25: People enjoy a late afternoon near the U.S.-Mexico border fence on September 25, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico. Friendship Park, located on the border between the two countries is one of the few places on the 2,000-mile border where separated families are allowed to meet. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
TIJUANA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 24: Immigrants, many of them deportees from the United States, eat breakfast at a soup kitchen on September 24, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico. The center, called the Desayunador Salesiano Padre Chava, is run by a Catholic order of priests and feeds more than than 1,000 immigrants each morning. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
TIJUANA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 24: People stand in line to cross legally into the United States from Mexico on September 24, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico. Securing the border and controlling illegal immigration have become key issues in the U.S. Presidential campaign. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
TIJUANA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 25: A couple holds hands while meeting loved ones through the U.S.-Mexico border fence on September 25, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico. The U.S. Border Patrol opens the park on the American side in San Diego on weekends to meet through the fence with family and friends through the fence at Tijuana. The park is one of the few places on the 2,000-mile border where separated families are allowed to meet. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
TIJUANA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 25: People enjoy a late afternoon near the U.S.-Mexico border fence which ends in the Pacific Ocean on September 25, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico. Friendship Park, located on the border between the two countries is one of the few places on the 2,000-mile border where separated families are allowed to meet. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
TIJUANA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 25: Mexicans enjoy a late afternoon near the U.S.-Mexico border fence which ends in the Pacific Ocean on September 25, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico. Friendship Park, located on the border between the two countries is one of the few places on the 2,000-mile border where separated families are allowed to meet. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
TIJUANA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 25: A child plays in the Pacific surf near the U.S.-Mexico border fence on September 25, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico. The nearby Friendship Park is one of the few places on the 2,000-mile border where separated families are allowed to meet. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
TIJUANA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 25: Immigrant activists pray at the U.S.-Mexico border fence on September 25, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico. The U.S. Border Patrol opens the park on the American side in San Diego on weekends to meet through the fence with family and friends through the fence at Tijuana. The park is one of the few places on the 2,000-mile border where separated families are allowed to meet. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
TIJUANA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 25: Maria Rodriguez Torres, 70, embraces a grandchild after seeing her other grandchildren for the first time through the U.S.-Mexico border fence on September 25, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico. She had traveled with family members from Mexico City to see her grandchildren through the fence at 'Friendship Park.' The U.S. Border Patrol opens the park on the American side on weekends to meet through the fence with family and friends through the fence at Tijuana. The park is one of the few places on the 2,000-mile border where separated families are allowed to meet. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
JACAMBA HOT SPRINGS, CA - SEPTEMBER 26: Residents line up to receive free food at mobile food pantry near the U.S.-Mexico border on September 26, 2016 in Jacamba Hot Springs, California. The Feeding America truck delivers to the border town's needy residents twice a month. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
JACAMBA HOT SPRINGS, CA - SEPTEMBER 26: A U.S. Border Patrol vehicle stands guard along the U.S.-Mexico border fence on September 26, 2016 in Jacamba Hot Springs, California. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
JACAMBA HOT SPRINGS, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 26: A cardboard cutout of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is on display at a debate-watching party for supporters of Hillary Clinton at the Yum Yum Chinese restaurant near the U.S.-Mexico border on September 26, 2016 in Calexico, California. People across the country tuned in as Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton participated in their first debate. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
HOLTVILLE, CA - SEPTEMBER 27: Mexican farm workers hoe a cabbage field on September 27, 2016 Holtville, California. Thousands of Mexican seasonal workers legally cross the border daily from Mexicali, Mexico to work the fields of Imperial Valley, California, some of the most productive farmland in the United States. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
HOLTVILLE, CA - SEPTEMBER 27: A A Mexican farm worker plows a U.S. farm on September 27, 2016 in Holtville, California. Thousands of Mexican seasonal workers legally cross the border daily from Mexicali, Mexico to work the fields of Imperial Valley, California, some of the most productive farmland in the United States. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
HOLTVILLE, CA - SEPTEMBER 27: A marker stands over an immigrant's grave on September 27, 2016 in Holtville, California. Hundreds of immigrants, many who died while crossing the desert from Mexico into the United States, are buried in a pauper's cemetery. Many of the grave markers simply read 'John Doe.' (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
TIJUANA, MEXICO - SEPTEMBER 25: A man looks through the U.S.-Mexico border fence into the United States on September 25, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico. Friendship Park on the border is one of the few places on the 2,000-mile border where separated families are allowed to meet. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
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The plan lays out what it would take to seal the border in three phases of construction of fences and walls covering just over 1,250 miles (2,000 km) by the end of 2020.

With 654 miles (1,046 km) of the border already fortified, the new construction would extend almost the length of the entire border.

Many cost estimates and timelines have been floated since Trump campaigned on the promise of building a wall. The report seen by Reuters is the work of a group commissioned by Kelly as a final step before moving forward with requesting U.S. taxpayer funds from Congress and getting started on construction.

A DHS spokeswoman said the department does "not comment on or confirm the potential existence of pre-decisional, deliberative documents."

A White House spokeswoman said it would be "premature" to comment on a report that has not officially been presented to the president.

The report said the first phase would be the smallest, targeting sections covering 26 miles (42 km) near San Diego, California; El Paso, Texas; and in Texas's Rio Grande Valley.

The report assumes DHS would get funding from Congress by April or May, giving the department sufficient time to secure contractors and begin construction by September. Trump has said Congress should fund the wall upfront, but that Mexico will reimburse U.S. taxpayers. Mexico has said it will not pay.

Several U.S. congressional delegations are visiting the border this month to assess funding needs, according to several people familiar with the travel plans.

The report shows the U.S. government has begun seeking waivers to address environmental laws on building in some areas. It also shows the government has begun working with existing contractors and planning steel purchases for the project.

Trump told law enforcement officials on Wednesday, "The wall is getting designed right now."

The report accounted for the time and cost of acquiring private land, one reason for its steep price increase compared to estimates from Trump and members of Congress.

Bernstein Research, an investment research group that tracks material costs, has said that uncertainties around the project could drive its cost up to as much as $25 billion.

The second phase of construction proposed in the report would cover 151 miles (242 km) of border in and around the Rio Grande Valley; Laredo, Texas; Tucson, Arizona; El Paso, Texas and Big Bend, Texas. The third phase would cover an unspecified 1,080 miles (1,728 km), essentially sealing off the entire U.S.-Mexico border.

BARRIERS TO CONSTRUCTION

The report lays out costs to cover the border with barriers, but funding constraints and legal battles are likely to place limits on those plans.

It also does not account for major physical barriers, like mountains, in areas where it would not be feasible to build.

A source familiar with the plans said DHS may have to go to court to seek eminent domain in order to acquire some of the private land needed to cover the final and most ambitious phase.

The first phase, estimated to cost only $360 million, could be a relatively easy way for Trump to satisfy supporters eager to see him make good on his campaign promises to limit illegal migration. But the rest of the construction will be markedly more expensive, covering a much larger stretch of land, much of it privately owned or inaccessible by road.

In addition to seeking eminent domain and environmental waivers, the U.S. government would also have to meet the requirements of the International Boundary and Water Commission, a U.S.-Mexico pact over shared waters. The report estimated that agreement alone could bring the cost from $11 million per mile to $15 million per mile in one area.

(Reporting by Julia Edwards Ainsley; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Alistair Bell)

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