This spring, the Trump administration solicited proposals to build a wall along the United States' border with Mexico, a campaign pledge that unites the president's base. Within a month, over 700 companies had expressed interest in securing the contract to construct or complete the 2,000-mile barrier. That's roughly one company for every mile of fencing that already exists in some form between the Pacific Ocean west of Tijuana and the Gulf of Mexico.
At PSmag.com, over the course of hundreds of stories and several years, we've tracked the ongoing debate and research regarding a southern wall—and will continue to do so. We've looked at everything from the response of Mexican officials ("It's a non-starter") to the results, published in the American Journal of Sociology, of a 30-year study that found increased border enforcement changes where migrants cross into the U.S. but doesn't stop them.
As most reporting focuses on what form the U.S.-Mexico wall will take, we turn our attention to some of the unseen consequences of construction.
In this issue's lead feature, Alan Weisman travels to the Mexican state of Sonora for a river trip with the Northern Jaguar Project to look for some of the latest non-human migrants to cross the border. The endangered and federally protected jaguar, which once roamed from California to Louisiana, is reclaiming its natural range, moving north from breeding grounds in Mexico into Arizona and beyond. Even if an extended border wall simply replicates the existing fence—16-foot steel columns placed inches apart—it would be, as Weisman writes, "impenetrable to any creature bigger than a lizard that lacks wings."
It’s perhaps more likely, though, that any new wall would be completely solid, restricting even the lizards from international travel. In a solicitation that went out, the Department of Homeland Security specifically requested designs made entirely of concrete, the primary tool in the architectural movement known as Brutalism.
Concrete is one of the cheapest building tools—a bonus for the Trump administration as it struggles to secure funding. But, unfortunately for the jaguar—and the lizard—it's also one of the least environmentally friendly. As Morgan Baskin writes in One Last Thing, it's responsible for significant amounts of carbon dioxide—and there's no keeping that from crossing the border.
A version of this story originally appeared in the August/September 2017 issue of Pacific Standard.