We, the Texas Society of Architects (TxA), a regional state component of The American Institute of Architects (AIA) with more than 7,200 members, wish to register our concern about President Donald Trump’s proposal to construct an enhanced structure along the US/Mexico border, more than 1,950 miles from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. Depending on the terrain, access, and other construction factors, it has been estimated that the cost of a 30-foot high reinforced concrete wall could be anywhere from $17-$25 million per mile, or $20-25 billion for the entire project—a cost likely be borne solely by the taxpaying citizens of the United States.
This proposed wall is controversial. As in the general population, some of our members support the border-wall concept and accept its perceived benefits, while others are apprehensive about the ability of such a project to accomplish its stated objectives, especially given the likely significant expense. As architects, we have chosen to set aside attendant political issues to focus on environmental and economic ones instead.
The Texas portion of any US-Mexico border wall would be more than 1,250 miles of primarily privately-owned agricultural land. Unlike Arizona, California and New Mexico, the land needed to build this wall must be “seized” from Texas citizens and families, many of whom have owned their land for generations. The other major component of international boundary lands in our “back yard” are part of a public use and preservation system that includes federal parklands, especially Big Bend, Native American reservations, or ecological preserves like the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in Hidalgo County. It also includes 13 state parks along the Rio Grande River corridor that have been established based on their cultural, environmental, historic, and recreational value or significance.
As contemplated, an impenetrable 30-foot high structure would impair several migratory species, including some that are endangered. It would also disrupt human-use with negative economic repercussions to local and statewide economies. There is little doubt that the environmental impacts from the construction of the proposed wall would result in irreparable ecological damage to significant tracts of natural vegetation, habitat, and ecosystems, including lands belonging to Native American reservations.
As licensed architects, we are bound to serve the public interest; as members of the AIA, we are obligated to uphold ethical principles that include intelligent stewardship of our natural resources and physical environment. President Trump’s proposed border wall would damage both of those trusts.
Furthermore, an expenditure of $20-50 billion for infrastructure could do far more good for more Americans if invested in numerous other public brick-and-mortar projects: updated health care facilities, libraries, schools, parks and recreation facilities, mass transit, a 21st century power portfolio (including a new, “smart” power grid), a national fiber-optic internet, climate impact infrastructure, or an improved road system designed to accommodate autonomous vehicles as well as the growing number of conventional vehicles—notably the many commercial trucks now coming through Laredo, the nation’s fastest growing port of entry. Such investments would stimulate the national economy more broadly than construction of a Mexican-border wall, immediately providing more tangible benefits to citizens in all 50 states—not just the four sharing a border with Mexico.
Therefore, the Texas Society of Architects requests that Texas’ two US Senators and all 36 members of the Texas delegation in the US House of Representatives consider any and all alternatives for border protection and immigration control between the US and Mexico, and advocate instead for infrastructure projects that will better serve and enrich the public interest while safeguarding our natural environment.