While other controversies rage, work on US border wall moves forward

While other controversies rage, work on US border wall moves forward, by Byron York.

Officials are quietly moving ahead on one of the president’s top campaign promises: the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Although it hasn’t received much attention relative to the president’s many problems, extensive planning for the wall is under way, officials are evaluating specific proposals, sites are being studied, and yes, there is money available to get going.

The work is being done under President Trump’s executive order of Jan. 25, which declared the administration’s policy to “secure the southern border of the United States through the immediate construction of a physical wall …” The order went on to set a high standard of effectiveness: “the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States” along the border. Finally, the order cited an existing law, the Secure Fence Act, which in 2006 called for the construction of “at least two layers of reinforced fencing” and “additional physical barriers” on up to 700 miles of the 1,954-mile border. …

Can the USA build a wall?

What is entailed:

There is no intention to build a wall to stretch the entire border, from San Diego, Calif., to Brownsville, Texas. In his campaign, the president made clear that the wall need not cover every mile of the border. Certainly, no expert who supports more barriers at the border believes it should, either.

And the wall does not always mean a wall. The Jan. 25 executive order defined “wall” as “a contiguous, physical wall or other similarly secure, contiguous and impassable physical barrier.” Planners say that in practice, that will certainly mean extensive areas with an actual wall. But other areas might have the type of fencing outlined in the Secure Fence Act, or some other barrier yet to be designed. …

The border barrier will not look the same at all points along the border. The terrain of the border is different — some parts are so imposing they don’t need a barrier at all — and officials plan to design walls and barriers that fit each area, rather than one long, unchanging structure. …

The current barrier:

Of the 1,954 miles of border, 1,300 miles, or 66.5 percent, have no fencing or barriers at all; 299.8 miles, or 15.3 percent, have vehicle fence; and 316.6 miles, or 16.2 percent, have pedestrian fence. Only 36.3 miles, or 2 percent, have the kind of double-layer fencing required by the Secure Fence Act.

Not much wall is needed to make an impact:

At the moment, planners believe that about 700 “buildable miles” of the border will require a wall or other barrier. That just happens to be about the same amount called for in the Secure Fence Act. …

There’s no doubt that hundreds of miles of truly impenetrable barriers would have a huge effect on illegal border crossings. Talk to some experts who favor tougher border enforcement, and they will say that even as few as 100 well-chosen miles of barrier would make a difference.

No, the wall is not dead.

After the recent spending bill passed, some opponents of the wall declared the project dead. (Sample headline: Vanity Fair’s “How Trump’s Wall Failure Will Forever Doom His Presidency.”) But any victory dance right now is premature. Yes, it’s certainly possible the wall won’t be built. But it’s also possible it will be built, or that significant parts of it will be built. The work is already under way.