What’s in a border wall? Is it steel or concrete? Is it see-through? Is it merely the idea of border security? Maybe it’s a fence.
That’s exactly what President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have been arguing about since long before the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. The impasse started when Trump refused to sign a budget that didn’t include $5.7 billion to fund the construction of a border wall. Now, he and Democrats, lead by Pelosi, have 12 days to agree on what they want to do — or not do — to secure the border before the government shuts down … again.
Most recently, Pelosi pondered whether “Normandy fencing would work” after once again refusing to allocate funding for Trump’s wall last week. “Let them have that discussion. If the president wants to call that a wall, he can call it a wall," she said.
But Trump wasn’t having it and called Pelosi’s idea for a border fence “political games.”
"Let's just call them WALLS from now on and stop playing political games! A WALL is a WALL!" he tweeted in response.
Not all members of the president’s party agree, though. Republican Sen. John Kennedy, for example, recently said Pelosi could call the border wall a “wangdoodle” for all he cares, as long as Democrats agree to a deal.
When there are walls, fences, steel slat barriers, and even “wangdoodles” (?) to argue over, it’s easy to see why everyone is so confused. So we’ve put together a handy guide to all of the different names our esteemed leaders have used to describe border barriers.
Used in a sentence: “[Mexico is] going to pay for the wall, and they’re going to enjoy it.” — Donald Trump
Definition: Trump first started calling for a plain-and-simple wall about two years before he was elected president. Back then, it was simply known as a “wall,” which he’s been falsely claiming that Mexico would pay for.
Used in a sentence: “SECURE THE BORDER! BUILD A WALL!” — Donald Trump
Definition: It’s pretty much the same thing as the “wall” but reserved for times when the president is very serious or angry.
Big, beautiful wall
Used in a sentence: “WE NEED A BIG & BEAUTIFUL WALL!” — Donald Trump
Definition: During the campaign, Trump called for the wall to be not only “big” — though his estimates for price and size vary — but also “beautiful.” He also wanted there to be “a big, fat beautiful door right in the middle of the wall.”
Used in a sentence: “An all concrete Wall was NEVER ABANDONED, as has been reported by the media.” — Donald Trump
Definition: Trump’s former chief of staff said the administration abandoned the idea of a concrete wall long ago, but the president just said at end of December that he was still planning to build one. Trump has, however, repeatedly contradicted himself on what materials would make up the wall and how long it would be.
Used in a sentence: “Is there a place where enhanced fencing, Normandy fencing, would work?” — Nancy Pelosi
Definition: Normandy fencing is X-shaped vehicle barriers that lined Normandy beach in France during World War II, which could be funded under current proposals from Democrats.
Fences and walls
Used in a sentence: “President Donald Trump’s ‘wall’ along the U.S.-Mexico border would be a series of fences and walls that would cost as much as $21.6 billion, and take more than three years to construct, based on a U.S. Department of Homeland Security internal report.” — internal Trump administration memo, according to Reuters
Definition: Adding to the complications of what is a wall and what is a fence, Trump’s wall or fence is apparently neither entirely wall nor entirely fence but rather a “series of fences and walls,” according to the memo that leaked in 2017.
Used in a sentence: "I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively.” — Donald Trump
Definition: Trump isn’t referring to the Great Wall of China, although he has referenced that wall before.
“They built the Great Wall of China,” Trump said during a GOP debate in 2016. “That’s 13,000 miles. Here, we actually need 1,000 because we have natural barriers. So we need 1,000.”
Used in a sentence: “[President Trump] wants $5 billion to build some antiquated, medieval wall that he said Mexico would pay for. This is a joke.” — Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet from Colorado
"They say it's a medieval solution, a wall. It's true, because it worked then and it works even better now," Trump said this month.
The natural barriers wall
Used in a sentence: “It’s 2,000 miles, but we need 1,000; you have natural barriers. We need 1,000 miles.” — Donald Trump
Definition: Who needs a concrete wall or even steel slats when we already have mountains and rivers? Trump has repeatedly stated, as recently as last year, that some “natural barriers” are “far greater than any wall you could build, OK?”
Used in a sentence: "Democrats have voted for 700 miles of secure fencing in 2006.” — Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham from South Carolina
Definition: Barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border already exist. During George W. Bush’s presidency, prominent Democrats like Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and then-Sen. Hillary Clinton voted in favor of the Secure Border Fence Act, which added about 550 miles of border barrier for about $7 a person, according to a recent study. The bill also included funding for drones, vehicle barriers, and more border-security measures.
The fact that Democrats supported a border fence — but not a full-blown wall — hasn’t escaped the Trump administration. “We don’t understand why the Democrats are so wholeheartedly against it,” Office and Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said in April. “They [Democrats] voted for it in 2006,” But again, that was a fence, with added security, not a wall.
Used in a sentence: “Some areas will be all concrete, but the experts at Border Patrol prefer a Wall that is see through (thereby making it possible to see what is happening on both sides). Makes sense to me!” — Donald Trump
Definition: In the very same tweet in which he announced that an “all concrete” wall was happening, Trump announced that some areas would also be “see through,” so that Border Patrol officers can see what’s happening on the other said. That is, unless transparent concrete has been invented.
Used in a sentence: “Using the figure that the president has put on the table, if his $5.7 billion is about border security, then we see ourselves fulfilling that request, only doing what I like to call using a smart wall.” — Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn from South Carolina
Definition: This week, Democrats proposed a “smart wall” that’s more a figure of speech than actual barrier. The “smart wall” would involve drones and other technology to “to create a technological barrier too high to climb over, too wide to go around, and too deep to burrow under,” Rep. Clyburn.
Steel slat barrier
Used in a sentence: “A design of our Steel Slat Barrier which is totally effective while at the same time beautiful!” — Donald Trump
Definition: Trump said that he decided a steel barrier would be a better option for the wall because Democrats said “loud and clear” that they did not want concrete. This version of the wall has “artistically designed steel slats, so that you can easily see through it,” according to Trump.
Used in a sentence: “I think [Pelosi] probably doesn’t want to use the word ‘wall.’ That’s ok, she can call it a wangdoodle for all I care.” — Republican Sen. John Kennedy from Louisiana
Definition: At least one Republican has suggested that Pelosi just make up a word entirely so she can get her party on board with funding for the wall.
Cover image: A woman walks on the beach Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, next to the border wall topped with razor wire in Tijuana, Mexico. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)