Tonight Donald Trump claimed Hillary Clinton would let 650 million people into the US in a week. While Trump has said some crazy and dangerous things in the past, this one really beggars belief. Let’s look at some of the ways that this is completely off-the-rails insane.
Getting people in
650 million people is a lot of people. Somehow, in a week, they all have to get to the United States. Let’s assume that the entire populations of both Canada and Mexico arrive by land and everybody else arrives by air. Canada and Mexico have about 155 million people combined, so in one week they’d all have to cross the borders. That’s 22 million people per day, or 15,375 per minute, for that entire week. There are 117 land crossings between Canada and the US and 48 between Mexico and the US. That’s 162 crossings that have to handle 15,375 people every minute, so each one has to process 95 per minute, or one person every 0.63 seconds. Of course, there are more people in Mexico than in Canada, so the Mexican border crossings need to process one person every 0.24 seconds while the border guards at Canadian crossings only need a leisurely 2 seconds per person.
Okay, that sounds a little unrealistic. Let’s look at the air arrivals. 500 million people are going to arrive in the United States by air in one week. The largest passenger plane in the world is the Airbus A380. If it’s fully outfit for economy seating, it can hold 853 people. That means you would need to make 586,166 flights into the United States for that week, or just more than 58 flights every minute. There are only 195 Airbus A380s in the world though, so each one would have to arrive in the United States every 3 minutes and 20 seconds. They would have to land, get passengers off, fly back overseas, pick up passengers, and fly back to the US, all in 3:20.
This is starting to sound a little impossible.
The Airbus A380 only needs about 5900 feet to land, but over 9000 feet to take off, so its choice of airports is restricted as well. In the US there are 189 runways longer than 10000 feet, which is amazingly close to the 195 Airbus A380s in the world, so we could just assign one plane to each runway (spreading out the other 6 planes amongst those runways). That makes logistics easier!
But hey, we’re not restricted to just A380s. In 2013 the worldwide commercial fleet was at about 20,000 planes, so let’s press them all into service! 500 million people spread over 20,000 planes means we only need to bring in 25,000 people per plane for that week. Suppose each plane can hold 250 people (that’s just a wild-ass guess), so that’s only 100 flights per plane per week, or 14 every day. Each airplane then has to make a round trip every hour and 40 minutes!
Okay, maybe it’s not that realistic.
Housing them when they’re in the US
Let’s assume that somehow the largest migration in the history of the world is a success and the United States has just allowed 650 million more people within its territory. Luckily the US has a lot of land to spread out in — its current population density is about 86 people per square mile, so tripling this only puts it at about 260 per square mile. This is right about the population density of Albania, Syria, or Sierra Leone. No problems there.
But where do they actually live? Do they live in hotels? There are about 5 million hotel rooms in the US, so that’s a tidy 130 people per room. The average hotel room is about 330 square feet, so each person gets a cozy 2.5 square feet! Who needs to sleep?
Or maybe we billet them in American’s houses. In 2015 there were about 125 million households in the US, so each one would have to take 5.2 people, which is the most realistic thing I’ve calculated tonight.
Feeding them all
Once those 650 million extra people are in the US and have found housing, they probably want to be fed. At any one time the US only has about three days’ worth of food available in the logistics chain, and that’s for 315 million people. Triple the population and you have to triple the amount of food available. The US does export about $150 billion worth of food every year, so maybe they could just stop exporting food and feed the people with that, so each person would get $230 worth of food a year. But 350 million tons of corn is exported annually, so those extra 650 million people could just split all that up and have a half-ton of corn each! That sounds nutritious and totally do-able, if you ignore the fact that the overwhelming majority of that corn is grown for agricultural use (cows, mostly) and isn’t suitable for human consumption.
Don’t forget utilities
These people are going to use electricity as well, mostly to heat more water. In 2015 the average American household used 901 kWh per month, and the average household had 2.54 people, so let’s say each person uses 355 kWh per month. 650 million more people means almost 231,000 megawatt hours per month. The US generated about 410,000 megawatt hours in August 2016, so if we just take the increase in residential load the US’s electricity generation would need to increase by over 50%. In a week.
The average person uses about 90 gallons of water per day, so that’s an extra 58.5 billion gallons of water used every day. On average Niagara Falls has four million cubic feet of water flow over it every minute, which is about 5.8 billion cubic feet every day. One cubic foot of water has 7.48 gallons, so Niagara Falls could supply 43 billion gallons of water every day, which isn’t quite enough for the 650 million people. It’s close enough though, so let’s just say we have tapped Niagara Falls entirely for this influx of people. Oh, and that happened in a week as well.
But that’s not all!
How do you get the people from the airports to where they’ll be living? What about hospitals; assume people visit hospitals at the same rate they do now, hospitals can’t handle three times as many emergency room visits, surgeries, births, deaths, and everything else medical. Do the children go to school? Where? What about jobs? Policing?
There are just too many ways that this is unrealistic. I’m beginning to think that maybe Donald Trump doesn’t really know what he’s talking about.