By Miriam Raftery
Photo: Department of Homeland Security
September 4, 2017 (San Diego) – Homeland Security in Thursday announced four companies chosen to build prototypes of a border wall in the Otay Mesa area in San Diego. President Donald Trump has threatened a government shut down if Congress won’t fund subsequent construction of a wall along most of the international U.S.-Mexico border in an upcoming spending bill.
He’s drawn criticism for proposing to cut billions of dollars from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) while expending $1.6 billion this year for the wall.
Critics say funds are more urgently needed to help survivors of Hurricane Harvey, the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, and potentially, Hurricane Irma now barreling toward the East Coast, as well as wildfire victims in California.
ACLU of Texas border advocacy strategist Michael Seifert states, “It is disturbing that even during this time of tragedy for Texans, the Department of Homeland Security, which houses both FEMA and CBP (Customs and Border Patrol), has chosen to allocate resources for a border wall when the agency’s focus should be assisting those who were affected by this natural disaster. Now is the time for this country to come together to protect all people. Instead, this administration has chosen politics over people.”
Alliance San Diego human rights director Christian Ramirez, also director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition, states, “The building of an unnecessary border wall will come at the expense of upgrading our outdated ports of entry. Our booming binational region is in need of infrastructure that facilities trade and commerce, investment in protecting our sensitive environment and assurances that the rights and dignity of border residents will be protected. The administration’s misguided insistence that a border wall must be built is an affront to the just demands of border communities to revitalize and not militarize our region.”
The Center for Biological Diversity has raised objections on environmental grounds, noting that the Trump administration has pushed forward on the wall without any environmental review, waiving all requirements normally required for any major project. A press release from CBD calls the prototypes effort a “reckless project that endangers critical wildlife habitat, hurts communities and ignores public input.”
The Center filed a lawsuit in June challenging the San Diego prototypes and 14-mile replacement border wall projects, saying the Trump administration is ignoring federal laws that require environmental review and public input before building on public land.
The prototypes will each be approximately 30 feet high and made of concrete, at a cost of $400,000 to $500,000 each. Each prototype aim to prevent climbing, penetrating through the wall, or digging tunnels underneath it. Homeland Security officials have asked that the final wall be aesthetically pleasing on at least the U.S. side of the border.
Border Patrol agents will help determine which barriers are most effective at deterring drug smuggling and human trafficking.
None of the contractors selected are from California. Those chosen are Caddell Construction Company in Alabama, Fisher Sand and Gravel Company in Arizona, Texas Sterling Construction Company in Texas, and W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Company of Mississippi.
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