The logistics and actual construction of President Trump's border wall has been up in the air since its days as a 2016 campaign promise, and despite a new development in the process, the wall's future remains unclear. On Tuesday, CNN reported that prototypes for the border wall in California are being knocked down. According to Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), it's because the administration no longer has any use for them.
"At this point, we have learned a lot from them, but we don't necessarily have a purpose or use for them anymore, and we will be bringing them down," a CBP official told CNN.
According to the Associated Press, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spent $20 million in 2017 on prototypes along the California border and elsewhere. CBP initially commissioned eight border wall prototypes near the cities Tijuana and San Diego for upwards of $3 million back in October 2017, according to CNN (NPR reported the cost as $5 million). Each one cost between $300,000 and $500,000 to build, according to the AP. The administration's guidelines dictated that they should be relatively impenetrable, and resistant to climbing or tunneling.
At the time, immigrants rights activists like Christian Ramirez, director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition, considered the prototypes to be just part of the president's campaign sloganeering. "We knew this was political theater and we're not going to respond," Ramirez told NPR October 2017. "This is much ado about nothing."
More recently, Border Patrol agent Vincent Pirro characterized the prototypes as a tool. "The prototypes were used as a tool. They used them for different attributes," he told NPR on Wednesday. "They looked at some of the pros and cons of the prototypes, and they put them in a toolkit. And that's what they're going to use for future wall projects."
DHS conducted testing on the prototypes during late 2017, but an internal CBP report showed that all eight designs were vulnerable to breaches, NBC News reported in January. Even so, the White House told the AP that while they're getting rid of the wall mock-ups, certain elements of the prototypes are being folded into current barrier designs.
In fact, demolishing the eight prototypes is in part to make room for 14 miles of secondary, mostly replacement, fencing along the San Diego border, according to NPR. One-and-a-half miles of the fencing will be new, the outlet reported. According to CNN, none of the bidding companies that constructed the eight original prototypes have been given contracts to work on any new wall projects.
The new fencing will resemble the panels of steel slats elsewhere on the border, according to the AP, which look starkly different from some of the prototypes which were built with solid concrete. "To actually incorporate the new wall with the eight different prototypes would cost a lot more money," Pirro told NPR.
Trump signed a spending bill last month significantly hampering his funding request for the wall. He subsequently declared a national emergency to pull funds from elsewhere in the federal budget, but with legal challenges piling up — in addition to forceful opposition from the House — the future of the wall is looking increasingly uncertain.