U.S. Moves to Build Prototypes for Mexican Border Wall

The awarding of the contracts for a border wall comes as the government assesses the damage from Hurricane Harvey, which has devastated parts of Texas. Some congressional critics have accused the administration and its Republican allies of proposing cutting billions in funding to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead department for disaster recovery, to pay for a border wall.

An array of Democrats and other critics have called the wall unnecessary.

“It’s hard to understand the strategic value of this wall in terms of protecting U.S. citizens and illegal activity,” said Laura Peterson, an investigator with the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group, who was on the staff of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “C.B.P. didn’t seem to need it before Trump’s executive order.”

Mr. Trump has asked Congress to allocate $1.6 billion this year toward building a wall along the roughly 1,900-mile border with Mexico. A mix of barriers — from chain-link fences and steel walling that keep people from crossing to steel beams that stop vehicles — already stretch across about 650 miles of the border. Congress has provided $341 million this year to repair and bolster the existing barriers.

The House Appropriations Committee approved a spending bill that included $1.6 billion for a wall. The bill would fund 74 miles of fencing along the border. The Senate has yet to act on the bill.

Mr. Trump has threatened a government shutdown if the border wall is not included in the next spending bill.

The awarding of the contracts for prototypes comes months after Mr. Trump issued an executive order instructing Customs and Border Protection to build the structure along large sections of the border. In March, the agency issued two requests for proposals, for both a concrete wall and other wall types. The contracts for the other types will be announced next week.

For the past several months, the Army Corps of Engineers has been drilling and taking soil samples at different spots along the border to determine what type of barriers would be most effective in the various types of geography along the border.

The requests from Customs and Border Protection, the parent agency of the Border Patrol, said vendors would build prototypes that would make it essentially impossible for a person to climb over the wall or scale it with a ladder.

The prototypes would also include features designed to prevent scaling using common and more sophisticated climbing aids, the agency said in the proposal requests.

To address concerns that drug cartels or others could tunnel under the wall, the requests ask for designs that “prevent digging or tunneling below it for a minimum of six feet below the lowest adjacent grade.”

Officials have discovered 224 tunnels along the border since 1990. The most recent was found last week. The crude tunnel, which was discovered by the Border Patrol, was being used to smuggle Chinese and other illegal immigrants from Mexico into the United States, officials at Customs and Border Protection said.

Homeland Security officials have also asked that a wall be at least somewhat aesthetically pleasing, at least from the American side, according to contracting documents.

The companies that will build the prototypes are Caddell Construction Company of Montgomery, Ala.; Fisher Sand and Gravel Company of Tempe, Ariz.; Texas Sterling Construction Company of Houston; and W. G. Yates & Sons Construction Company of Philadelphia, Miss.

Continue reading the main storySource: New York Times – Politics

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