Nat­u­ral bar­ri­ers to keep 130 miles of bor­der with­out a wall.

Pro­to­types for pro­posed bar­rier sup­posed to be­gin con­struc­tion this sum­mer

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Home­land Se­cu­rity said Tues­day that at least 130 miles of the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der have enough nat­u­ral bar­ri­ers that there’s no need to build a wall there — leav­ing most of the 1,954-mile di­vide as po­ten­tial ground for a fence.

Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion (CBP), the agency charged with build­ing President Trump’s wall, said it hopes to be­gin con­struc­tion by the end of the sum­mer on pro­to­types that would serve to test dif­fer­ent de­signs.

CBP is aim­ing to have be­tween four and eight fi­nal wall op­tions, act­ing Deputy Com­mis­sioner Ron­ald Vi­tiello told re­porters, de­liv­er­ing an up­date on progress on one of the president’s ma­jor cam­paign prom­ises.

“We are al­ready mak­ing great progress,” Mr. Vi­tiello said.

He said fenc­ing has proved to be suc­cess­ful in con­trol­ling il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion and re­duc­ing crime in ar­eas where it’s been used in the past, in­clud­ing stem­ming mas­sive waves of im­mi­gra­tion in Cal­i­for­nia in the 1990s and in Ari­zona in the last decade. Mr. Vi­tiello said tech­nol­ogy and man­power were also part of the mix.

CBP is push­ing ahead even though Congress has been re­luc­tant to pony up. Democrats have vowed to re­sist any new mile of fenc­ing, say­ing they’ll work to deny money in this year’s spend­ing bills.

“Build­ing a wall along the south­west bor­der would di­vert crit­i­cal re­sources away from more ef­fec­tive mea­sures to en­sure bor­der safety, such as in­vest­ing in port-of-en­try se­cu­rity and procur­ing new tech­nolo­gies that mon­i­tor move­ments of peo­ple who try to cross the bor­der,” Demo­cratic sen­a­tors said in a let­ter ear­lier this month.

So far, Congress has ap­proved $20 mil­lion to build the wall pro­to­types, and 40 miles of re­place­ment fenc­ing in Cal­i­for­nia and Texas.

Mr. Trump had ini­tially vowed Mex­ico would foot the bill for the wall, but has since tamped down on that pos­si­bil­ity. Last week he sug­gested plac­ing so­lar pan­els on the wall to pro­duce en­ergy, which could then be sold to help pay for the cost.

Mr. Vi­tiello said that sug­ges­tion has not trick­led down to the de­sign­ers.

Mr. Trump had ini­tially talked about a wall across the en­tire bor­der but the ad­min­is­tra­tion has since backed off that — though they’ve been re­luc­tant to say how much they do en­vi­sion.

Mr. Vi­tiello, though, did say they’ve only ruled out about 130 miles of the bor­der — about 7 per­cent — as def­i­nitely not wor­thy of a fence. He said places such as Texas’s Big Bend have nat­u­ral bar­ri­ers that are nearly im­pass­able.

“I think it’s in the neigh­bor­hood of 130 miles where we’ve looked at, be­cause of lakes, be­cause of high moun­tain range, or be­cause of th­ese deep canyons that it just doesn’t seem prac­ti­cal to have a wall,” Mr. Vi­tiello said.

That still leaves plenty of ground for a po­ten­tial fence.

Some 354 miles of the bor­der have a full fence right now, and an­other 300 miles have ve­hi­cle bar­ri­ers that can stop cars and trucks but eas­ily al­low pas­sage of those on foot.

CBP has sub­mit­ted re­quests for money in the 2018 bud­get to fence in 60 more miles in Texas, and re­plac­ing 14 miles of ex­ist­ing sec­ondary fenc­ing in San Diego.

Mr. Vi­tiello said the San Diego fence has been breached more than 800 times in just the last year, mak­ing it vul­ner­a­ble to drug car­tels.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In some spots near the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der there are enough nat­u­ral bar­ri­ers that there’s no need to build a wall, says Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion’s act­ing Deputy Com­mis­sioner Ron­ald Vi­tiello.

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