Bor­der agency ask­ing con­trac­tors for help mak­ing wall harder to climb and cut through

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - NATION & WORLD - By The Wash­ing­ton Post

U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion has asked con­trac­tors for help mak­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s bor­der wall more dif­fi­cult to climb over and cut through, an ac­knowl­edg­ment that the de­sign cur­rently be­ing in­stalled across hun­dreds of miles of the U.S.-Mex­ico boundary re­mains vul­ner­a­ble.

The new Re­quest For In­for­ma­tion no­tice that CBP posted gives fed­eral con­trac­tors un­til

June 12 to sug­gest new anti-breach­ing and an­ti­climb­ing tech­nol­ogy and tools, while also invit­ing pro­pos­als for “pri­vate party con­struc­tion” that would al­low in­vestors and ac­tivists to ac­quire land, build a bar­rier on it and sell the whole thing to the gov­ern­ment.

Trump continues to cam­paign for re-elec­tion on a prom­ise to com­plete nearly 500 miles of new bar­rier along the bor­der with Mex­ico by the end of 2020, but ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials have scaled back that goal in re­cent weeks.

The pres­i­dent has ceased pro­mot­ing the $15 bil­lion bar­rier as “im­pen­e­tra­ble” in the months since The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported smug­gling crews have been saw­ing through new sec­tions of the struc­ture us­ing in­ex­pen­sive power tools.

CBP of­fi­cials said their new re­quest for in­for­ma­tion — first re­ported by the KJZZ Fron­teras Desk in Ari­zona — does not amount to an ad­mis­sion that the cur­rent de­sign is in­ad­e­quate or flawed.

“We have an adap­tive ad­ver­sary; re­gard­less of ma­te­ri­als, noth­ing is im­pen­e­tra­ble if given un­lim­ited time and tools,” the agency said. “Walls pro­vide the U.S. Bor­der Pa­trol the abil­ity to slow and stop po­ten­tial cross­ings. That means build­ing wall will de­ter some peo­ple from at­tempt­ing to cross, while slow­ing the ef­forts of those who still try.”

The pub­lic no­tice is the first in­di­ca­tion CBP of­fi­cials do not be­lieve the steel bol­lard de­sign they se­lected from pro­to­types in 2017 is suf­fi­ciently for­mi­da­ble to achieve that goal. The pri­mary de­sign, con­sist­ing of 30-foot-tall steel bol­lards topped with flat metal anti-climb pan­els, is now be­ing in­stalled by pri­vate con­trac­tors at mul­ti­ple lo­ca­tions along the bor­der.

“This is the most so­phis­ti­cated bor­der wall sys­tem we have ever built, but we will never dis­re­gard in­no­va­tive and creative ideas that could con­tinue to en­hance bor­der bar­ri­ers,” CBP said.

Trump is ex­pected to at­tend a cer­e­mony in Yuma, Ariz., this week to mark the com­ple­tion of the bar­rier’s 200th mile, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials who were not au­tho­rized to de­scribe the plans.

CBP has not said pub­licly how of­ten smug­gling crews have breached or at­tempted to breach the struc­ture. Records ob­tained by The Post via the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act in­di­cate there were 18 breaches in the San Diego area dur­ing a sin­gle onemonth pe­riod last fall. The San Diego ar­eas has some of the most for­mi­da­ble bar­ri­ers along the en­tire bor­der, and con­struc­tion of new dou­ble-lay­ered fenc­ing there is largely com­plete.

Smug­gling crews have none­the­less man­aged to saw through the steel bol­lards us­ing com­mer­cially avail­able de­mo­li­tion tools such as re­cip­ro­cat­ing saws with in­ex­pen­sive metal-cut­ting blades. Oth­ers have fash­ioned long, im­pro­vised lad­ders out of cheap metal re­bar. More ath­letic bor­der-jumpers have been seen us­ing rope lad­ders to climb up the wall, slid­ing down the other side by grip­ping the bol­lards like a fire­man’s pole.

The CBP re­quest for in­for­ma­tion says the agency is look­ing for new ways to stop them.

Such pro­pos­als could in­clude sen­sors and cam­eras that would pro­vide early warn­ings for climb­ing and breach­ing at­tempts, as well as “ad­vanced paint tech­nol­ogy that would en­hance the abil­ity of ther­mal sen­sors to rec­og­nize wall jumpers and im­prove de­tec­tion.”

Trump main­tains a keen in­ter­est in the aes­thet­ics and de­sign el­e­ments of the bar­rier, and his shift­ing pref­er­ences have re­peat­edly left bor­der of­fi­cials and mil­i­tary en­gi­neers strug­gling to ad­just his tastes to the op­er­a­tional and ge­o­graphic re­al­i­ties of the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der.

In re­cent weeks, the pres­i­dent has once more in­sisted the bar­rier should be painted black, telling aides it will ab­sorb more heat from the sun and de­ter climb­ing by scald­ing the hands of would-be fence jumpers. The black paint will drive up con­struc­tion costs by at least $500 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment es­ti­mates, and skep­tics have pointed out that the black paint will in­crease main­te­nance costs. That, and climbers could sim­ply use gloves to pro­tect their hands.

The lan­guage in the CBP re­quest for in­for­ma­tion about “pri­vate-party con­struc­tion” ap­pears specif­i­cally geared to the ef­forts of the group We Build the Wall, led by for­mer Trump ad­viser Stephen K. Ban­non and other prom­i­nent con­ser­va­tive ac­tivists, in­clud­ing Kansas sen­ate can­di­date Kris Kobach.

The group says it has raised or re­ceived $25 mil­lion in do­na­tions to build new bar­ri­ers on pri­vate land.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.