John Oliver Explains Just How Unrealistic Trump's Border Wall Actually Is

John Oliver
John Oliver continued his assault on Trump on the latest episode of "Last Week Tonight." YouTube

Donald Trump wants to build a wall. A big, beautiful, gleaming wall to protect the United States from the killers and rapists who live south of the border. His proposal to construct a border wall—and to have Mexico pay for it—was the initial foundation of a campaign that over the course of nine months has come to represent so much more than mere xenophobia. While the racism and violence and high-quality steaks have drawn most of the media's attention, we've come to forget about the wall, but if Trump were to be elected president, this is presumably something that he would indeed attempt to build. On Sunday night's edition of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver decided to break down the logistics of the wall and—surprise, surprise—it's not exactly feasible. Here's why:

It Would Cost Way More Than Trump Claims

As Oliver points out, Trump has said the wall would cost everything from $4 billion to $12 billion. He's also said the wall would be everything from 35- to 90-feet high. It would be made out of hardened concrete, rebar and steel, and need to be 1,000 miles long. OK.

According to The Washington Post, the concrete panels alone would cost $10 billion, with the steel columns needed to hold the panels costing an additional $5 billion to $6 billion. Add another $1 billion for the concrete footing for said columns and another $2 billion to that for the cost of the roads necessary to transport these materials to currently inaccessible areas of the border. There's also the cost of engineering, design and management, not to mention the cost of maintaining the wall, which would exceed the cost of construction—now at around $25 billion—within seven years.

But how much it costs doesn't really matter, right? Mexico is paying for it, right? How is Mexico paying for it? The treasury secretary and two former presidents have already vehemently denied that any of the country's money would go toward the wall. Trump cites the $58 billion trade deficit, but as Oliver notes, that money "isn't lying around in some centralized Scrooge McDuck money bin labeled, 'Dumb Americans' Money: Do Not Spend on Border Fence.'" That money belongs to the businesses of Mexico.

Where the Wall Would Be Built Isn't So Simple

In 2006, Bush signed the Secure Fence Act, which called for 700 miles of fencing along the border. The construction of the Bush Fence wasn't so easy, though. Much of the border is made up of the Rio Grande, and a 1970 treaty prohibits building anything that might prevent the normal flow of the river. The border in Texas also isn't owned by the government, so much of the land that abuts it is private. In 2006, when some of these landowners refused to sign away the rights to their land so that the fence could be built, the government condemned the land and sued the landowners. After that was done, the government had to waive 36 laws to build the fence, some related to Native American land and environmental issues. Could all of this be an issue again, should Trump decree that a wall must be built? Umm, yes.

A Wall Wouldn't Prevent Anything, Anyway

Oliver cites a Pew study that found that almost half of "unauthorized migrants" living in the United States came in through legal means. A wall obviously isn't going to stop Mexicans from entering the United States legally and staying in the country after their visa expires.

Also, it's not like Mexicans wishing to enter the United States wouldn't be able to find ways to circumvent the wall. There's no reason drug runners would stop using tunnels, cannons, catapults and other means to get drugs across the border. As Al Jazeera America correspondent Paul Beban pointed out after speaking with several border patrol officers, "if you build a 30-foot wall, all it's going to do is create a market for 31-foot ladders."

So there you have it. Unfortunately, for Trump supporters, none of this matters. If Trump says it will be done, it will be done.

Watch the entire segment below.