© Reuters. A prototype of US President Donald Trump‘s border wall with Mexico is shown in this image taken from the Mexican side of the border, in Tijuana.
By Heather Somerville
San Diego (Reuters) – Nine months after President Donald Trump took office, the first tangible signs of progress on one of his campaign’s central promises have appeared along the United States’ border with Mexico.
A couple of miles (km) from the bustling Otay Mesa border crossing in San Diego, eight towering chunks of concrete and steel rise up to 30 feet (9 meters) against the sky, possible models of what Trump has promised some day. be a solid wall that stretches the entire southern border, from California to Texas.
It remains highly uncertain whether any of the eight different prototypes, built in the last month, will become part of an actual wall.
So far, the United States Congress has shown little interest in appropriating the $ 21.6 billion it would cost to build the wall.
Still, border patrol officials Monday welcomed the boost from Trump’s pledge, which generated a surge of voter support that helped elect him to office.
“Our current infrastructure is more than two decades old,” Roy Villareal, deputy chief patrol agent for the San Diego sector of the US Border Patrol, said during a tour with media organizations Monday morning. “Is there a need for improvement? Absolutely.”
Currently, 654 miles (1,052 km) of the 1,900-mile (3,058 km) border with Mexico are fenced, with single, double, or triple fences. The second fence line in San Diego, about 18 feet high, has been violated nearly 2,000 times in the past three years, Villareal said.
Even if Trump’s wall is never funded, Villareal said, the border patrol could incorporate one or more of the new wall designs as it replaces worn sections of the existing fence.
Six contractors from across the country were selected to build the eight prototypes, all of which will be completed this week.
The builders paid attention to aesthetics in their bid to win lucrative contracts. One segment of the wall features dark blue steel and another has a brick facade, in stark contrast to the area’s existing border fence, a ramshackle corrugated steel structure left over from the Vietnam War.
In late November, a private company, whose name border patrol officials declined to name, will begin a 30- to 60-day process to test prototypes of the wall to determine how easy it would be to climb or dig underneath.
The final selection could be a combination of the prototype designs, Villareal said.
While solid concrete walls have a daunting presence, they could have an adverse effect on some border patrol activities, as agents would not be able to see potential crossings approaching the wall.
“It’s not so much the size of the wall, it’s the ability to see if it’s 10 people or 30 people with … rifles,” said Rowdy Adams, a former border patrol agent who left the agency in 2011 after 30 years. “It’s important to see that and establish your response plan.”
Two of the eight prototypes have a transparent design.
Environmentalists have warned that a solid wall would prevent wildlife, including a dwindling population of federally protected ocelots, from crossing.
A concrete wall can also be difficult to build without the involvement of some of the largest concrete suppliers in the world. Mexico’s Cemex and Switzerland’s LafargeHolcim told Reuters they were not involved in projects associated with the wall.