Can Trump Build a Wall? The Administrative Obstacles to the Border Wall

By Patrick Maguire

While campaigning for the presidency, then-candidate Donald Trump promised his supporters he would build a wall on the southern border of the United States to thwart the flow of immigration from Mexico.  President Trump appears determined to follow through on his promise.  On January 25, 2017, five days after being inaugurated, the President issued an executive order with the goal to “secure the southern border of the United States through the immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border.”  According to the order, the authority to build a wall is derived from the Secure Fence Act of 2006, a statute that has already been utilized to construct physical barriers along the border with Mexico.  This order, along with the President’s executive order banning the immigration of refugees, has incited a firestorm of protests across the country.  While the debate has justifiably focused on the effect these orders will have on immigrants and refugees, the significant impact that a physical border wall will have on the environment cannot be overlooked.  This Field Report will evaluate the legal considerations and impediments to the border wall’s construction from an environmental and administrative law perspective.