This week, the Department of Homeland Security put out a press release with a simple, two-word headline: “Walls Work.” The memo sets out the Trump administration’s plans for the new border wall along the US-Mexico border. It explains how, and when, different portions of the wall are scheduled for construction. And it explains why the administration believes the wall is going to improve border security and stop the flow of drugs into the United States. You can read the whole memo here.
The memo doesn’t say a word about politics. But as DHS was writing the memo, Congress members were clashing with President Trump over how exactly the wall could be paid for. President Trump is asking for five billion dollars to fund construction this year, and Democrats say they can’t approve more than 1.3 billion (the same amount they agreed to last year).
Both the president and Democrats in Congress signaled that they would be willing to let the government shut down if they couldn’t reach a deal on funding for the wall. “President Trump is willing to throw a temper tantrum and shut down the government unless he gets his way,” the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, said on the Senate floor. “I want to be crystal clear: There will be no additional appropriations to pay for the border wall. It’s done.”
The DHS Memo Admits That Much of the Work That Was Funded in 2017 Is Still Incomplete
The border near the Calexico West port of entry, before and after new construction
In 2017 — according to the DHS memo — Congress provided Homeland Security with $292 million. That was supposed to pay for 40 miles of “steel bollard wall” in the San Diego, El Centro and El Paso Sectors, where Homeland Security says the existing border was outdated and “operationally ineffective.” DHS says they awarded their first contract in November 2017, and began construction three months later, in February 2018. As of November 21, 2018, by Homeland security’s own account, much of the planned construction was incomplete. Some of the incomplete border wall won’t be done until at least May 2019, according to DHS. Construction on another part of the border wall just got started this September, according to the same memo. Here’s the tally, according to Homeland Security:
El Centro Project (2.25 miles): Completed.
El Paso Project (20 miles): Completed
San Diego Primary Project (14 miles): Completion anticipated in May 2019.
El Paso Project (4 miles): Construction started in September.
In 2018, Congress approved $1.375B for further border wall construction. That funding was supposed to construct about 84 miles of border wall across the Southwest border. According to DHS, the funds should have covered:
$251M for secondary border wall in the San Diego Sector
$445M to construct new levee wall system in the Rio Grande Valley Sector
$196M to construct new steel bollard wall system in Rio Grande Valley Sector
$445M for primary pedestrian wall in San Diego, El Centro, Yuma and Tucson Sectors
The memo does not say how much of that construction was completed.
Homeland Security Says They Need the Additional Five Billion Dollars to Build Another 215 Miles of Wall
The dilapidated border wall near the Calexico West port of entry, before new construction
DHS is pledging to use the five billion dollars (if approved by Congress) to pay for 215 miles of new wall along the border with Mexico. Homeland Security says its new construction is almost impossible to penetrate. You can see pictures here of some of the new construction, which is built of steel and measures 30 feet high. Critics have said that migrants could still scale the wall. But Homeland Security says the new construction is far stronger than the old border wall:
“On Sunday when a violent mob of 1,000 people stormed our Southern border, we found the newly constructed portions of the wall to be very effective. In the area of the breach, a group of people tore a hole in the old landing mat fence constructed decades ago and pushed across the border. U.S. Border Patrol agents who responded to the area ultimately dispersed the crowd, which had become assaultive, and apprehended several individuals. All of the individuals were either apprehended or retreated into Mexico. That evening, the fence was repaired. There were no breaches along the newly constructed border wall areas.”