What would Donald Trump’s “policies” mean for America’s cities?

Tomorrow belongs to him. Donald Trump points the way to the future. Image: Getty.

A bit like his former reality TV show The Apprentice, the more outlandish Donald Trump is, the more popular he seems to become. At time of writing, he’s already won the Republican primary contests in a dozen states.

Many of Trump’s policies will disproportionally affect US cities, so it’s time to take a look at what American cities will look like – or not look like – if he carries his policies through to their logical conclusion.

The wall

Trump wants to build a massive impenetrable wall with one “beautiful big fat door“ for legal immigrants to go through. Never mind the fact that eexperts and government officials agreed that making it impenetrable would be nearly impossible, because of the rough terrain along the border and many more obstacles – let’s assume he finds a way to do it. After all, as Trump himself said, “It’s not even a difficult project if you know what you’re doing, and nobody knows what they’re doing like I do.”

Trump has claimed that his border wall will be peanuts compared to the Great Wall of China. (That’s the Great Wall of China, which reaches up to 30 feet wide and 25 feet tall, by the way.) The US border with Mexico is nearly 2,000 miles long and is built along 10 states in total. With many roads, homes and buildings close to the border, there’s going to have to be major reconstruction done all across the border.

And it wouldn’t only have a physical impact, but a huge economic impact., too. El Paso, Texas (pop. 650,000) and Ciudad Juárez (pop. 1.2m) in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, between them make up the second largest metropolitan area straddling this border.

The border crossing between the two cities is one of the main trade routes between the US and Mexico, its third largest trade partner. These two cities include outposts of a wide range of manufacturing industries – car parts, electronics and medical devices, to name but three – and these industries were established where they are primarily because of the easy trade access.

If this trade route were shut down, these industries would not be able to export their products. The economies of both El Paso and Ciudad Juárez would take a major hit.

Cities that depend on tourism would be drastically affected as well. The largest metropolitan area crossing the border is made up of San Diego, California (pop. 1.4m) and Tijuana (1.3m) in Baja.

At the moment, the streets of Tijuana are covered in traditional Mexican crafts, tourist information centres, restaurants, and many other shops which exist large t to attract (mostly American) tourists. A tourist city shut off from its main source of tourists would mean thousands of people out of work, and many angry travellers.

These are only a couple of the 25 border crossings that would be shut down under Trump’s plans. He has not said that he plans to end all trade with Mexico – but it’s perhaps difficult to fathom how he intends to get it all through this one huge door.

Deporting 11m immigrants

The wall is simply a tool to keep out the 11m undocumented immigrants that Trump has promised to deport. Most economists argue that immigration actually helps the U.S. economy – but Trump has declared “when Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best…They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.

“And some, I assume, are good people.”

California, home to more than 2m undocumented immigrants, has more immigrants than any other state – and its cities would be affected the most.  San Diego alone has an estimated 170,500 undocumented immigrants; nearly half are from Mexico, according to the Public Policy Institute of California and Pew Research Center.

In all, approximately 1 in 10 of Californian workers are undocumented immigrants – and it’s not difficult to see how the state’s economy would take a hit if 1 in 10 workers were suddenly kicked out of the country. (On that basis, it would seem San Diego would “only” have to deal with the loss of 17,050 immigrant workers.) This, perhaps, is why 80 per cent of Californians actually support the path of citizenship for illegal immigrants.

While Trump continues to say that the country needs someone like him to sort out the $19trn debt, his immigration plans could actually put the US into another plummet like the 2007 housing crash, according to a new report featured in The Telegraph.

The report was written for New Day for America PAC, a fundraising group that supports rival candidate John Kasich (and so, has some interest in talking down Trump’s ideas). Nonetheless, it argued that building the wall and deporting 11m illegal immigrants could cost the US over $900bn. When you consider the report’s estimates for the cost of the 2,000 mile wall (between $15b-$25b), its annual maintenance cost ($700m per year), the cost of finding, arresting and deporting illegal immigrants ($619b), and that of maintaining a no-immigrant status quo over two decades ($315b), it adds up.

The ban on Muslim immigration

Trump has not only called for a ban on allowing Muslims to enter the country – but he has promised to ban Muslim-Americans from returning to the United States, if they go abroad, too. “They’re not coming to this country if I’m president,” Trump said. “And if Obama has brought some to this country they are leaving, they’re going, they’re gone.”

It might be challenging to enforce this policy: the U.S. census doesn’t track religious affiliation. But Trump told MSNBC not to worry about details like that, he will get airline representatives, customs agents, and border guards to simply ask people for their religion.

Muslim Americans mirror the wider US public in education and income levels.  Muslim immigrants, however, are slightly more affluent and better educated, according to a 2007 Pew survey. The survey suggests this is most likely due to the strong concentration of Muslims in professional, managerial, and technical fields (IT, education, medicine, law and so on).

What’s more, research published by Strategic Research Circle shows there are 81,000 Muslim owned businesses in the US. New York, Chicago, and Houston, which between them include half of the country’s Muslim-owned businesses, would be hardest hit by Trump’s proposed ban.

Many of these businesses are headed by physicians and surgeons. In all, around 2 per cent of American physicians (approximately 23,000) are Muslims, and almost half of them are in New York and Chicago.

Make America great again?

These are only a few of the many offensive and bizarre things that Donald Trump has said while flashing his slogan “Make American great again” during the primaries.

But when does he think America was great? Perhaps he means during the housing crash of 2007 – or perhaps before segregation was banned in 1964.


The mountain in North Wales that tried to stop the UK’s blackout

Elidir Fawr, the mountain in question. Image: Jem Collins.

Last Friday, the UK’s National Grid turned to mush. Not the official term perhaps, but an accurate one after nearly one million people were left without power across the country, with hundreds more stranded at train stations – or even on trains (which isn’t nearly as fun as it might immediately sound). 

Traffic lights stopped working, back-up power failed in hospitals, and business secretary Andrea Leadsom launched an investigation into exactly what happened. So far though, the long and short of it is that a gas-fired power station in Bedfordshire failed just before 5 o’clock, followed just two minutes later by Hornsea offshore wind farm. 

However, amid the resulting chaos and inevitable search to find someone to blame for the outage, a set of mountains (yes, mountains) in North Wales were working extremely hard to keep the lights on.

From the outside, Elidir Fawr, doesn’t scream power generation. Sitting across from the slightly better known Mount Snowdon, it actually seems quite passive. After all, it is a mountain, and the last slate quarry in the area closed in 1969.

At a push, you’d probably guess the buildings at the base of the mountain were something to do with the area’s industrial past, mostly thanks to the blasting scars on its side, as I did when I first walked past last Saturday. 

But, buried deep into Elidir Fawr is the ability to generate an astounding 1,728 megawatts of electricity – enough to power 2.5 million homes, more than the entire population of the Liverpool region. And the plant is capable of running for five hours.

Dubbed by locals at the ‘Electric Mountain’, Dinorwig Power Station, is made up of 16km of underground tunnels (complete with their own traffic light system), in an excavation which could easily house St Paul’s Cathedral.

Instead, it’s home to six reversible pumps/turbines which are capable of reaching full capacity in just 16 seconds. Which is probably best, as Londoners would miss the view.

‘A Back-Up Facility for The National Grid’

And, just as it often is, the Electric Mountain was called into action on Friday. A spokesperson for First Hydro Company, which owns the generators at Dinorwig, and the slightly smaller Ffestiniog, both in Snowdonia, confirmed that last Friday they’d been asked to start generating by the National Grid.

But just how does a mountain help to ease the effects of a blackout? Or as it’s more regularly used, when there’s a surge in demand for electricity – most commonly when we all pop the kettle on at half-time during the World Cup, scientifically known as TV pick-up.

The answer lies in the lakes at both the top and bottom of Elidir Fawr. Marchlyn Mawr, at the top of the mountain, houses an incredible 7 million tonnes of water, which can be fed down through the mountain to the lake at the bottom, Llyn Peris, generating electricity as it goes.

“Pumped storage technology enables dynamic response electricity production – ofering a critical back-up facility during periods of mismatched supply and demand on the national grid system,” First Hydro Company explains.

The tech works essentially the same way as conventional hydro power – or if you want to be retro, a spruced up waterwheel. When the plant releases water from the upper reservoir, as well as having gravity on their side (the lakes are half a kilometre apart vertically) the water shafts become smaller and smaller, further ramping up the pressure. 

This, in turn, spins the turbines which are linked to the generators, with valves regulating the water flow. Unlike traditional UK power stations, which can take hours to get to full capacity, at Dinorwig it’s a matter of 16 seconds from a cold start, or as little as five if the plant is on standby.

And, designed with the UK’s 50hz frequency in mind, the generator is also built to shut off quickly and avoid overloading the network. Despite the immense water pressure, the valves are able to close off the supply within just 20 seconds. 

At night, the same thing simply happens in reverse, as low-cost, surplus energy from the grid is used to pump the water back up to where it came from, ready for another day of hectic TV scheduling. Or blackouts, take your pick.

Completed in 1984, the power station was the product of a decade of work, and the largest civil engineering project commissioned at the time – and it remains one of Europe’s largest manmade caverns. Not that you’d know it from the outside. And really, if we’ve learned anything from this, it’s that looks can be deceiving, and that mountains can actually be really damn good at making electricity. 

Jem Collins is a digital journalist and editor whose work focuses on human rights, rural stories and careers. She’s the founder and editor of Journo Resources, and you can also find her tweeting @Jem_Collins.