Donald Trump wants to build a wall on the Mexico-US border — a big, beautiful wall, of course. And while this idea may sound inherently ridiculous to a lot of people, Trump is very serious about it. So on Sunday's Last Week Tonight, Oliver decided to take Trump's primary policy proposal seriously.
There are lots of problems, according to Oliver:
- Cost: Trump has at varying times estimated that the wall will cost anywhere from $4 billion to $12 billion. But according to the Washington Post, experts put the estimate closer to at least $25 billion. And while Trump insists Mexico will pay for the wall, there is zero evidence for that: Mexican officials have flat-out rejected the idea.
- Geography: Where does the wall go? As Oliver points out, this isn't as easy a question to answer as you might think. Large parts of the border are made up of the Rio Grande river. The wall can't be built to obstruct the flow of the river, per a 1970 treaty.
As a consequence, big parts of the border fence approved in 2006 were built inland, sometimes actually blocking off US territory, such as the Fort Brown Memorial Golf Course. As the Guardian put it, the fence has turned into a "costly logistical nightmare."
- Effectiveness: It's not clear whether the wall would do much, if anything, to stop the flow of unauthorized immigrants into the US. In a 2006 report, the Pew Research Center estimated that "nearly half of all the unauthorized migrants now living in the United States entered the country legally through a port of entry such as an airport or a border crossing point where they were subject to inspection by immigration officials" — and then they just remained in the country without authorization. A wall wouldn't stop them.
Not to mention all the people who would get around the wall with a ladder, rope, or underground tunnel.
Does this matter to Trump and his supporters? Maybe not. As Oliver noted, many people may want the wall as a symbol — it feels like it keeps the US safe. Trump has said it keeps out Mexican immigrants whom he characterized as "rapists" and "criminals." But a century of empirical research suggests Trump is wrong: Immigrants are potentially less, not more, likely to commit crime than their native-born counterparts. So it's not clear just how much safer it would make America.
Ultimately, Oliver suggested that buying a $75 electric waffle iron for every American would be a better use of the money than building a wall.
"I know what you're thinking: 'John, this is a stupid idea.' But is it? Is it, really? Yes, obviously, it is," Oliver said. "But is it significantly stupider than Donald Trump's wall? Because this waffle iron plan will cost less, it'll do nearly as much to keep out immigrants and drugs, it won't harm our relationship with our third-largest trading partner, if it is racist it's only toward Belgians, and, unlike Donald Trump's wall, this makes fucking waffles."