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The Army Corps of Engineers has started drilling and testing soil samples along the U.S.–Mexico border as part of the preparation for wall construction, according to The New York Times.
The results of the soil tests will help determine which types of walls will work best at various points along the border. The Corps has completed testing in El Paso, TX, and Calexico, CA, with work still underway in San Diego, New Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas.
The Department of Homeland Security is paying special attention to the San Diego and Rio Grande Valley areas of the border. Agency officials have said that the current San Diego border, where the first wall prototypes will be built, has been breached more than 800 times in one year.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, which put the wall project out to bid, has released neither the names of the companies selected to build the prototypes nor details about what kind of wall construction is being considered. In its bid specifications, CBP left most of the design decisions up to each bidder and only stipulated that the wall should be between 18 feet and 30 feet high, be pleasing to the eye on the U.S. side and be as impenetrable as possible.
President Donald Trump said last week that running a wall along the entire 2,000-mile border would not be necessary because there a number of natural barriers there already. He also said the wall portions that are built should be as transparent as possible so that border agents could protect themselves from thrown objects. There are nearly 700 miles of existing walls and fencing already in place along the border, much of it see-through.
The president has held fast to his campaign promise that Mexico will pay for border wall construction, but Mexican officials have said they will not fund any part of the project, which, according to the DHS, could cost as much as $22 billion. However, the agency allocated only $20 million of its cash on-hand toward pre-construction, and the 2018 Trump administration budget earmarked just $1.6 billion for construction.
The U.S. House Appropriations Committee last week proposed setting aside $1.6 billion for border wall construction as part of its 2018 DHS funding measure, but that would only cover construction startup costs.