US Department of Homeland Security Unveils Border Wall Prototypes

The Homeland Security Department is overseeing the building of prototypes for President Trump’s long-promised border wall. The prototypes, built near the Otay Mesa border crossing in San Diego, are meant to be the president’s answer to illegal immigration and the cross-border drug trade.

US Department of Homeland Security Unveils Border Wall PrototypesReuters/Mike Blake

Over the last month, six contractors have built eight different prototypes for the wall design. All of the prototypes are 18-30 feet tall, to make them difficult to scale, and 6 feet underground, to make them difficult to dig under. Half of the prototypes are made from concrete, and the other half is made from “other materials” including steel. Two of them have a see-through design, which President Trump has said will prevent people on the US side from being hit by “large sacks of drugs” thrown over the border wall.

Now that the prototypes have been erected, the process of testing them can begin. Ron Vitiello, the acting deputy commissioner for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, says that they will wait until later in November for the concrete to set before an unnamed private company will begin testing. Each prototype will be tested for ease of breaching the wall, ease of climbing the wall, and safety of the border patrol agents. According to officials, these small-scale prototypes will “inform future design standards” for the wall, and President Trump has said he will choose the one he likes best.

But although the prototype walls have gone up, President Trump still faces significant obstacles to his goal of dividing the continent. Money is the primary issue; although the House has approved a bill allocating  $1.6 billion for the wall, the Senate has yet to approve it, and the DHS used money allocated towards other projects to pay for the prototypes. The proposed wall has also received staunch opposition from Texas Republicans, as many in the strongly pro-free-market state object to the seizure of private land that the wall would necessitate.

Border experts are unsure whether the proposed wall would reduce either the cross-border drug trade or undocumented immigration. As of 2014, immigration data showed that most undocumented immigrants (66 percent) had simply overstayed their legal visas. And most of the drugs smuggled across the border are taken across at legal entry points, hidden in cars or on people. Neither of those entry points would be impacted by the creation of a wall.

Doris Meissner, the Clinton administration’s top immigration official, doesn’t believe that the wall will achieve either of President Trump’s aims. “We have a much better picture of what’s happening on the border now more than we ever have,” she said, in a recent statement. “While a wall or barrier in some areas would be useful, trying to build one along the entire border would be wasteful because of all the technology we have and how illegal migration has changed.”

Trump’s proposal is also dividing the continent along ideological lines. Many on both sides of the border believe that the wall is an insult to Mexico, whose citizens President Trump has previously called “rapists” bringing “drugs and crime” into the United States. Reece Jones, a professor of geography at the University of Hawaii, says that the wall is “a powerful symbol,” and that it “symbolizes action whether or not it actually does anything.” Adriana Alvarez, a Mexican-born resident of San Diego, is blunter in her assessment: “The wall is a message for Mexicans and people from Central America to stay away from the US.”

For more world news, see ‘NEXT POST.’ And why not ‘SHARE’ on Facebook?

More From Bestie