By Alexandra Mendoza
The clock is ticking for the six selected contractors, as they have less than a month to submit their proposals for what could become the Wall promised by President Donald Trump.
Construction of the eight prototypes is underway this week in a fenced-off area two miles east of the Otay Mesa border crossing and mere feet from the existing border wall with Mexico.
Each model is to range between 18 and 30 feet in height, and must also be designed to deter illegal crossings and keep tunnels from being built under it, stated Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesperson Carlos Diaz.
“It’s definitely going to be a better design than what we have right now,” added Diaz.
In spite of being in competition with one another, all the contractors will be building their prototypes at the same site, which is divided into 60 feet by 60 feet spaces.
Once the proposals are built, they will undergo a 30 to 60-day testing period by different agencies, including Border Patrol.
“They will be testing whether the walls work, using tools and other means to see if they can circumvent their features,” he said.
Roy Villareal, deputy chief for the San Diego Sector Border Patrol, said they will identify the best way to build new parts and repair existing infrastructure along the border prior to making any investments.
Access to the construction area is restricted, and each truck must pass through a security checkpoint before being allowed to enter.
There is law enforcement presence starting two miles out from the site; some of the surrounding streets have been partially closed, and temporary signs prohibit parking through Nov. 10.
According to a Homeland Security memo published by the Wall Street Journal, one of the greatest concerns was that there would be massive, violent protests at the site. To address the issue, a “free speech” area was set up nearby for anyone who wants to speak out for or against the border wall.
The potential for demonstrations also prompted the County Board of Supervisors to unanimously pass an ordinance to temporarily prohibit any items that could be used as weapons, such as rocks, knives, sticks, and pepper spray, from being brought into the area. Violators could be charged with a misdemeanor and/or fined up to $1,000.
Immigrant rights groups in San Diego, however, feel that these measures are “exaggerated” and unnecessary, assuring that they have no plans to protest at the site.
Christian Ramirez, Director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition – an organization that brings together non governmental organizations from California to Texas – stated that he has no knowledge of any protests being organized. He also stressed that, in the 20 plus years that he has been an activist, other walls have been built between San Diego and Tijuana, and there has never been a demonstration that required the involvement of law enforcement entities.
“We’ve never seen a situation that required police mobilization such as what authorities say they are doing now,” he said. “There have been huge mobilizations, but we have never needed to have such an exaggerated police presence.”
While the construction of these prototypes was funded under the White House budget, that does not guarantee that a new border wall with Mexico will eventually be built. For that to happen, Congress would have to approve funding for it and, by some estimates, the cost of fulfilling Trump’s flagship campaign promise could be more than $20 billion dollars.