2017 Year-End Border Wall Update — ‘Build the Wall’
“Build the wall, build the wall” is a chant that rings on in the minds of supporters of President Donald J. Trump — his cornerstone promise to build a wall along the U.S. southern border. So when will these Trump-faithful see this promise realized?
Talk and chants of “build the wall” at Trump’s 100 Days rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, revealed no waning in Trump supporters’ eager anticipation of seeing one built along the U.S. southern border. Building the wall was a cornerstone promise of Trump’s historic 2016 presidential campaign.
Just five days into his term as president, Donald Trump took action on his promise of a wall and border security and issued his executive order on Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements. The order established executive branch policy to “secure the southern border of the United States through the immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border, monitored and supported by adequate personnel so as to prevent illegal immigration, drug and human trafficking, and acts of terrorism.”
Additional policies established in the order included detention of individuals suspected to have violated federal law, expedite claims of eligibility to remain in the U.S., remove those whose claims have been rejected, and cooperation with state and local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration priorities.
In the order, the Secretary of Homeland Security was ordered to, “take all appropriate steps to immediately plan, design, and construct a physical wall along the southern border, using appropriate materials and technology to most effectively achieve complete operational control of the southern border.” The secretary was also tasked with identifying and allocating the funds to build the wall. It is the secretary’s job to prepare “Congressional budget requests for the current and upcoming fiscal years.”
The current secretary of Homeland Security is Kirstjen Nielsen. She succeeded John Kelly when he left the position after six months to become White House Chief of Staff.
In March, CBP stated that it wasn’t sure how much it would cost to build the wall. A budget request was put in for $2.6 billion to go toward implementation of President Trump’s executive order, including not only the border wall but money for technology and hiring.
May brought the conclusion of President Trump’s first 100 days and uncertainty from the White House and Congress as to when Trump supporters looking for the campaign-promise along the southern border would see it built.
In October, eight border wall prototypes were completed next to the border in San Diego. On October 26, the prototypes were unveiled to members of the media. Four were composed of concrete and four others consisted of other materials. Each represented an individual contractor chosen through a bidding process, each one was to produce a prototype. The concrete had to set for 30 days before CBP could begin testing the walls.
Time-lapse video of the construction process can be seen here:
Testing on the prototypes began in late November and early December. Testers included members of BORTAC (Border Patrol Tactical Unit). The San Diego Union-Tribune reported on the testing activities including attempts to scale the walls with wires and grappling hooks. Newsweek reported that testing also included battering the walls with saws, jackhammers, and other tools. Southwest Border Branch Chief Carlos Diaz told the outlet, “CBP is testing the prototypes against the techniques used by smugglers on the southwest border to circumvent current border barrier.”
A CBP official told Breitbart News that the actual wall built may not replicate any one of the eight prototypes. Testing may lead to variations on the final form of the wall. According to officials, a new bidding process will determine what contractor(s) will be chosen to build that final version of the wall. The contractor may or may not be one of those chosen to build the prototypes.
CBP Acting Deputy Commissioner Ron Vitiello took questions during the October 26 unveiling during which he responded to the question: if they had the funding to construct the wall today, when would it be completed. He said that he was not sure when completion would be. Vitiello emphasized that border walls are an “extremely effective part” of the “multi-pronged security strategy to prevent the illegal migration of people and drugs, over many years.”
Vitiello identified congressional appropriations to fund the wall as the “limiting factor” in constructing the wall. He said that CBP has provided Congress “with as much information as we have now as it relates to estimates, locations, and priorities” in order to make the necessary appropriations.
In late November, the Senate homeland defense budget committee approved just shy of $1.6 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2018 funding to build a small amount of border wall. The House of Representatives had already approved the funding amount.
House Speaker Paul Ryan’s plans last October to pass DACA amnesty have not required funding to complete the border wall according to his fellow Republicans.
In September, legislative director Marc Short indicated that “a barrier” was important to border security but told The Hill that DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and wall funding need not be part of the same deal, “I don’t want to bind us into a construct that would make the conclusion on DACA impossible.” Within days of Short’s comments, Trump told reporters that he was willing to make a deal on DACA separate from wall funding.
During a December 20 cabinet meeting, President Trump called on Congress to fund the border wall, “which we’re getting very close to.” He spoke of the border wall prototypes constructed in San Diego and revealed, “I may be going there, very shortly, to look at them in their final form.”
Then in the last week of 2017, President Trump gave Democrats an ultimatum on border wall funding, “no DACA without the desperately needed WALL at the Southern Border and an END to the horrible Chain Migration & ridiculous Lottery System of Immigration etc.” The wall funding requirement is one Trump has been declaring for months.
As of the last days of 2017, Congress had not passed legislation to fully fund the president’s promised wall along the U.S. southern border.
Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana.