Last May, President Trump reportedly told administration officials that he wanted the metal slats that make up new sections of the border wall to be painted “flat black” so that they would absorb heat in the summer and become impossible to climb. Never mind that undocumented border crossings tend to decline in the summer due to the oppressive southwestern heat, and officials warned him of the exceptional cost of such a touch: “Once you paint it, you always have to paint it,” one administration official told the Washington Post.
Other far-fetched and cruel ideas that Trump reportedly proposed, like shooting migrants in the legs and building a moat, have fallen by the wayside, but the president still wants to paint the border wall black. According to a new report from the Washington Post, in a meeting in April — a month in which almost 60,000 Americans died in the coronavirus pandemic — Trump told senior adviser Jared Kushner to seek out estimates for the paint job. The Post also obtained a copy of the estimates that federal contractors drew up, showing costs ranging from $500 million for two coats of acrylic paint to over $3 billion for “powder coating.”
Either cost would be an egregious waste of taxpayer dollars, not to mention the wall budget. The White House has allocated $15 billion for the border wall, two-thirds of which comes from the Defense Department budget for construction; if the administration considers something closer to the high-end estimate, that could eat up as much as a fifth of the total funds obtained for the barrier, even though the project is less than half finished. Though the president hopes to build 500 miles of the wall by early next year, only 175 new miles have been built throughout his entire administration.
One official with knowledge of the plans told the Post that the administration doesn’t have a policy for the obvious challenge of painting the slats already in place on the Mexican side of the wall. And a materials engineer, Rick Duncan, who spoke with the paper said that Trump’s black wall would only increase the steel barrier’s ability to retain heat by less than 10 percent. “There’s no technical reason to paint it to make it hotter,” Duncan said, adding that the intense sun on the border would cause the paint to lose its ability to absorb heat. He estimated that sections in the Sonoran desert would need to be repainted every ten years, adding to the substantial cost of a project that has no use aside from appeasing the president, who may have thought of the idea because one of his friends touched a hot surface once:
In the meeting in which Trump reportedly called for an estimate, Jared Kushner — now in charge of the wall project on top of other duties like managing a pandemic, finding a COVID-19 vaccine, and ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — was not thrilled. According to the Post, the president’s son-in-law “expressed frustration at this role during the meeting, telling others the wall was not his favorite project but that he is the only one who can get it done.” Hopefully, his ability to handle the administration’s response to the pandemic portends his management of the paint job: This week, multiple reports depicted how his attempts at running a one-man FEMA led to the federal government’s failure to secure medical supplies for the states.