Although the U.S. Census Bureau reported the value of the U.S. commercial construction industry was $437.8 million in June of 2017, nearly 70% of American construction companies struggled to find capable workers in 2017. Moreover, 67% predicted these hourly positions would prove difficult to fill over the next year. In spite of this, and the fact that many construction companies feel crackdowns on immigration would make this issue even worse, President Trump is determined to keep his promise to build the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. We may not yet know what the wall will look like or who will pay for it, but one thing is certain: construction on eight different border wall prototypes began this week in California.
Six different construction companies — none of them from the Golden State — are charged with building the prototypes. According to officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, four of the eight prototypes will be made of concrete. The other four will be constructed of “alternate or other materials.” They will measure 30 feet in length and 18 to 30 feet in height. Each prototype will cost up to $450,000 to erect and will be paid for by pre-sanctioned federal funds. After the prototypes are completed (which officials say will take 30 days or less), they will then be evaluated for effectiveness, including how well they stand up to small hand tools.
DHS had previously designed a plan for a see-through fence facing the Mexico side of the border with a concrete wall 150 feet behind it facing the American side. In their plan, there would be an enforcement zone in between the two structures. Having the ability to see through portions of the wall is an idea Trump supports, as he explained at a recent rally in Alabama:
“They take drugs, literally, and they throw it, a hundred pounds of drugs. They throw it over the wall — they have catapults — and it lands and it hits somebody in the head!” said Trump. “Believe it or not, this is the kind of thing that happens. So you need to have a great wall — but it needs to be see through.”
There were 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in the U.S. in 2015, making this the leading cause of accidental death, and the American opioid epidemic is only getting worse. However, even if many dangerous drugs are manufactured in Mexico, it’s not clear that those who immigrate illegally are the ones bringing them into the country. Trump has called them criminals, rapists, and “bad hombres” in the past, and that rhetoric is still acting as the fuel for getting the “big, beautiful wall” built.
Trump has even suggested he’ll choose the prototype for the wall himself. “I’m gonna go out and look at them personally, and I’m gonna pick the right one,” he said at that recent Alabama rally.
But even if Trump and his team do manage to pick a prototype, it’s still unclear as to who will pay for the real version — if it ever comes to fruition. Although the president ordered construction to begin back in January, there was and is no funding to build the 1,250 miles of wall and fencing required by Trump’s plan. As yet, the Senate has declined to pay the $1.6 billion down payment. A leaked report from the Department of Homeland Security estimated that the wall would cost $21.6 billion. And while it’s been suggested that Mexico would pay for the construction, they have refused to do so.
In addition to the funding issues, Trump is facing opposition from the California attorney general, who has filed a lawsuit to block the border wall’s construction. The suit alleges that the plans violate both environmental standards and the rights of states.
Ronald Vitiello, the CBP’s acting deputy commissioner, said in a statement, “We are committed to securing our border and that includes constructing border walls. Our multi-pronged strategy to ensure the safety and security of the American people includes barriers, infrastructure, technology and people.”
But even civil rights groups don’t think the wall will ever become a reality. Hiram Soto of Alliance San Diego, a civil rights group, told the local NBC affiliate, “We consider the prototypes political theater for a wall that has no funding, and has really no way to exist.”