CALEXICO, Calif. (AP) — The White House has said that a two-mile stretch of fencing President Donald Trump is visiting Friday is the first section of border wall built under his administration.
In reality, the newly fortified structure is a long-planned replacement for an old barrier. It’s also one of a handful of projects, altogether costing $1 billion, that have been undertaken to replace existing barriers and build new ones across the border.
As Trump boasts of progress toward his goal of stemming the tide of migrant families crossing the border, here are questions and answers both about the various barriers that now stand along the border and those that are in the works.
WHAT’S ALREADY THERE?
The southern border is nearly 2,000 miles long and already has about 650 miles of different types of barriers, including short vehicle barricades and tall, steel fences up to 30 feet high. Most of the fencing was built under former President George W. Bush.
WHAT HAS TRUMP DONE?
Trump has yet to have new fencing or other barriers installed anywhere on the border. His administration has only replaced existing fencing in places like the one he visited on Friday.
The construction of that small stretch of fencing cost about $18 million, began in February 2018 and was completed in October. Plans to replace that section date to 2009, when Barack Obama was president.
Now, for what will be the first stretch of fencing built under Trump, contractors are doing site and preparation work along a 13-mile stretch in the Rio Grande Valley. The administration has said that work could begin as early as this week.
The administration is also replacing 14 miles of fencing around San Diego.
“The wall is under construction, by the way, large sections. We’re going to be meeting, I think on Friday, at a piece of the wall that we’ve completed, a big piece, a lot of it’s being built right now,” Trump told reporters on Thursday. “It’s moving along very nicely. But we need the wall.”
WHAT ABOUT THOSE PROTOTYPES?
Early in his term, Trump had commissioned the construction of prototypes of the border wall that might eventually be built. Model sections of wall were put up in the San Diego area at a cost of about $300,000 to $500,000 each.
But the eight prototypes eventually put up couldn’t be used in the end, because of a provision attached to a $3 billion border-wall allocation Congress approved in the first half of Trump’s term. That provision required that the $3 billion be spent on designs that were in place before May 2017. The prototypes were thus demolished in February.
The prototypes became a spectacle at various times, drawing tourists, protesters and artists who projected light shows on the walls from Mexico.
WHAT ABOUT THE NATIONAL EMERGENCY?
Trump shut down the federal government for more than a month — making for the longest shutdown in U.S. history — and later declared a national emergency to free up billions of dollars to build his wall. Congress later voted to block the emergency declaration, but Trump was able to respond with a veto
Several organizations filed lawsuits over the declaration, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday that Democrats plan to pursue legal actio to prevent Trump from “stealing” money from federal programs for a border wall.
Even so, the money approved as part of the emergency declaration has yet to be spent, in part because the government must first use existing border-wall funding. The recent lawsuits thus threaten to derail Trump’s plans.
Still, various plans for more border barriers are moving along. Last month, the Department of Homeland Security requested that the defense department build 57 miles of 18-foot fencing near Yuma, Arizona and El Paso, Texas.