President Donald Trump’s promised border wall along the Mexican border will be more like a “border wall system” of walls, fencing, technology, law enforcement, patrol roads – and 130 miles with nothing but “natural barriers,” a border official said Tuesday.
Acting Customs and Border Protection Deputy Commissioner Ronald Vitiello’s comments come as his agency is struggling to meet an aggressive schedule on a wall spanning the 2,000-mile southern border, one of the centerpieces of Trump’s campaign.
But Vitiello said Tuesday that prototypes for different sections of the wall are on schedule to be delivered by September, despite some setbacks. He insisted the agency is “already making great progress,” despite missing a June 12 goal to award contracts for construction of four to six prototypes.
In releasing the latest details on the wall, Vitiello also said that “there are areas where a wall does not make sense” on the border, saying planners have ruled out certain “obvious, common sense places.”
“We know there are places like Big Bend (National Park) – these deep river canyons along the border- where fencing is just not practical, it’s not necessary, the natural barrier already slows people down in that space,” he said.
Experts and lawmakers have long held that the construction of one consistent wall was not conceivable.
Tomas Robles, co-executive director for Living United for Change in Arizona, said the financial and environmental costs of construction will far outweigh any benefit in a reduction in illegal immigration.
“The wall itself is an archaic notion,” Robles said. “It gives us this false idea of safety or security, when in fact, it does the opposite. It will end up hurting us environmentally, it will end up hurting us economically.”
Vitiello’s comments on the wall come two weeks after the release of a Department of Homeland Security report that detailed delays and complications within the department as it struggled to move forward on the wall project.
“CBP currently faces an aggressive implementation schedule to satisfy its requirements under the President’s Executive Order,” the report said.
That report said original plans called for construction on wall prototypes to begin July 21. Vitiello said the agency still has not awarded any contracts as the end of June approaches, but that CBP plans to choose four to eight firms in coming weeks to begin work on wall prototypes.
Those prototypes are set to be completed in San Diego by September.
“Thanks to the funding provided this year by Congress and funding provided in 2018, we will construct gates and border walls in areas prioritized by the Border Patrol and that will make a real difference for agents on the front line,” Vitiello said.
But Robles said construction of the wall will just “provide a facade of security for those obsessed with it” and not “get to the root of the problem.”
“The border wall we have now definitely has not deterred migration, so I believe continuing to build a wall will do nothing for our security and, in fact, will hurt us in the long run,” Robles said.
“It’s not a necessary tool. What we really need to look at first is creating comprehensive immigration reform,” Robles said.
Story written by Megan Janetsky, Cronkite News.