Editor's note:

In Unpacked, Brookings experts provide analysis of Trump administration policies and news.

THE ISSUE: President Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexican border threatens to damage crucial cooperation between the two countries without solving unauthorized immigration to the United States.

Even if the wall goes up, even if we ignore all the environmental problems that it will cause, even if U.S. taxpayers are forced to pay for it, smugglers will find other ways to get around it.


  • President Trump wants to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to keep illegal immigrants from entering the United States.
  • Though Trump has said the wall will cost $12 billion dollars, other estimates have put it closer to $300 billion dollars.
  • In many places the proposed wall would have to be located within U.S. territory. In these spots, migrants would just need to make it to the wall to enter U.S. territory and gain eligibility for asylum. This is already a problem with existing border fencing.
  • The narrative that President Trump has developed around the wall is jeopardizing decades of improvement—fostered by George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama—to the U.S.-Mexican relationship. This threatens many domains of North American integration and cooperation.
  • The wall also poses a threat to wildlife. The border is home to numerous endangered species such as jaguars, pronghorns, tortoises, and frogs whose habitats would be compromised, as well as other wildlife like bees whose pollination patterns would be disrupted.
  • Though there are problems on the U.S.-Mexico border, even if the wall goes up, smugglers will find other ways to get around it.
  • Smugglers will likely circumvent the wall by flying drugs by drones, by airplanes, or by putting them will in trucks hidden among legal goods.
  • Boats will also likely be used to transport drugs and migrants.
  • Even under the best of circumstances, the wall would not actually stop bad flows of illegal activities and immigration, it will simply shift the flows to other means.