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Home Office Donald Trump claims wall is ‘ahead of schedule’ despite slow progress

Donald Trump claims wall is ‘ahead of schedule’ despite slow progress


Eight prototypes of Donald Trump’s border wall between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico were demolished Wednesday. A large hydraulic jackhammer pounded the concrete and steel panels until the slabs fell into small clouds of dust. (Feb 26)

WASHINGTON – Nearly a month after he declared an emergency to free up money for a border wall, President Donald Trump claimed the barrier “is well under construction.”

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For much of the past year, assessing the truth of that statement – and the president’s past claims – depends on how one defines “wall” and “construction.” 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has replaced several dozen miles of existing barrier along the border under the Trump administration, but as of early January the agency had not erected any new barrier where it did not already exist.

The border agency did not immediately respond to request for an update.  

“The Wall is being built and is well under construction,” Trump posted on Twitter Friday. “Far ahead of schedule despite all of the Democrat Obstruction and Fake News!” 

In February, Congress approved a measure to spend $1.375 billion for an estimated 55 miles of border fencing. Trump then declared a national emergency, and the White House said it would use its emergency powers to transfer an additional $6.6 billion to wall construction.

Administration officials said the combined money would pay for at least 234 miles “of new physical barrier.” 

During the campaign, Trump insisted the existing fence designs used by previous administrations were not adequate, and said he would build something different — an impenetrable wall at least 20 or 30 feet tall. After Trump took office, federal officials had construction companies bid on and build prototypes meeting those standards.

More: See what the fight over the wall boils down to: 200 miles on a 2,000-mile border

More: Trump says ‘walls work.’ Here’s what a full view of the border shows

“A wall is better than fencing, and it’s much more powerful,” Trump told The Washington Post in 2015. “It’s more secure. It’s taller.” 

And the president repeatedly suggested the wall would need to be about 1,000 miles long, roughly half the length of the U.S.-Mexico border. Existing barriers and “natural barriers,” such as mountains, would take care of the rest, Trump said.    

But the Trump administration’s definition of “wall” has changed with time. The federal government led a long and shifting process to seek contractors to build prototype wall designs near San Diego, including bids for solid concrete walls. Trump visited and praised those designs last year. After spending about $5 million on the prototyping project, the government demolished the prototypes in February.

Now, the White House is planning to build so-called “bollard wall,” or steel-slat barriers. Trump said he prefers that design, compared to a concrete wall, because agents can see through it.

A Honduran migrant helps a young girl cross to the American side of the border wall, in Tijuana, Mexico on Dec. 2, 2018. (Photo: Ramon Espinosa, AP)

“One of the things with the wall is you need transparency. You have to be able to see through it,” Trump said in 2017. “So it could be a steel wall with openings, but you have to have openings because you have to see what’s on the other side of the wall.

Wall is wall: Trump’s definition of ‘wall’ has shifted a lot over time

In 2017, the USA TODAY NETWORK flew, observed and mapped every mile of the U.S.-Mexico border and its existing fencing, a project that took months. Maps and video from the flight reveal that hundreds of miles of the border remain without fences or physical barriers, though those areas generally sit far from populated areas. In south Texas, where migrant crossing rates are high, the border fence is built sporadically, with many miles of gaps among the fencing.

Building more fences in Texas would probably require government purchase or condemnation of private property – a process that led to years of court fights a decade ago when the existing fences were built. A USA TODAY Network analysis of property records from every Texas border county found that about 5,000 parcels of private property sit immediately next to the border and might be seized or affected if more fencing were built.  

Contributing: Arizona Republic


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