Smugglers are sawing through new sections of Trump’s border wall

Smugglers are sawing through new sections of Trump’s border wall, by Nick Miroff.

Smuggling gangs in Mexico have repeatedly sawed through new sections of President Trump’s border wall in recent months by using commercially available power tools, opening gaps large enough for people and drug loads to pass through, according to U.S. agents and officials with knowledge of the damage.

Designed by the previous administration, says Trump

The breaches have been made using a popular cordless household tool known as a reciprocating saw that retails at hardware stores for as little as $100. When fitted with specialized blades, the saws can slice through one of the barrier’s steel-and-concrete bollards in minutes, according to the agents, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the barrier-defeating techniques. …

The smuggling crews have been using other techniques, such as building makeshift ladders to scale the barriers, especially in the popular smuggling areas in the San Diego area, according to nearly a dozen U.S. agents and current and former administration officials. …

Some of the damage has happened in areas where construction crews have yet to complete the installation of electronic sensors that, once operational, will more quickly detect the vibrations that sawing produces on the bollards, the officials said. They also said one of the main advantages of the steel bollard system — which stands between 18 and 30 feet tall — is that damaged panels can be repaired or replaced easily. …

Trump initially wanted to build a concrete wall along the length of the border but was talked out of it by Homeland Security officials who said the bollard system is a superior design because it allows agents to see through to the other side.

“Frankly, an all-concrete wall would have been a much less expensive wall to build,” Trump said in September during a visit to new sections of the barrier in San Diego. “But from the standpoint of Border Patrol, they were very much opposed to it.” …

CBP officials also have consistently said that no single structure, regardless of its design, can seal the border on its own. Rather, they have advocated for a “border wall system” that combines physical barriers, surveillance technology and the rapid deployment of agents to stop border crossers and attempted breaches. …

The Trump administration commissioned some border barrier prototypes in 2017 … The reports showed that all of the designs the Trump administration evaluated in 2017 were found to be vulnerable to breaching methods.

NBC News subsequently published images of steel bollards that were cut during the prototype tests and showed the photographs to the president. “That’s a wall designed by previous administrations,” Trump said. …

The engineers estimated that it would take someone 20 minutes or less to cut through a bollard if a team worked in pairs with two saws. The crews might go through multiple blades to complete a cut, the engineers said, but the blades can be changed quickly to resume sawing. …

The Trump administration has so far completed 76 miles of new barriers, all of it in areas like San Diego where the structure has replaced older, shorter and, in some cases, dilapidated fencing.

An additional 158 miles of barrier are under construction, according to CBP, and the agency said 276 miles are in a “preconstruction” phase.

The Israeli Wall works well. It is patrolled by drones and guards, but has cut illegal immigration into Israel to almost zero.