President Donald Trump told a group of reporters on a recent overseas trip that he didn't believe building a wall along the entire 2,000-mile length of the U.S.–Mexico border is necessary, according to the The Associated Press via PBS.
Trump said there are already many natural barriers — such as mountain ranges and "violent and vicious" water crossings — and that only 700 miles to 900 miles of new wall construction is needed to secure the border.
The president also said U.S. border agents should be able to see through to the Mexico side of the wall so that they can avoid being hit by "large sacks of drugs." The Department of Homeland Security has said that rocks thrown at agents pose a safety concern.
These are the first border-wall construction details that have come directly from the White House. In its announcement earlier this year of specifications for companies that wanted to bid on the project, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol said the wall should be between 18 feet and 30 feet tall, pleasing to the eye on the U.S. side and include features that would make it hard to scale or dig underneath. Wall bids fall into two categories: those made of reinforced concrete and those made of some other material.
Hundreds of companies signed up in the first few weeks, but absent were large infrastructure companies like AECOM and Bechtel that may not want to be subject to the negative publicity associated with the project or are hesitant to alienate existing customers and employees. For instance, municipalities including San Francisco and New York City have said they are working on legislation that would prevent even those bidding on the wall from doing business with their cities.
This summer, DHS will begin building prototype wall segments near San Diego, where officials have said that existing barriers have been breached the most. CBP announced in May that it had chosen finalists and estimated each prototype to cost between $200,000 and $500,000.
The issue of funding is still up in the air, however. Trump has said that Mexico will foot the entire bill for the wall, an assertion that Mexican officials have repeatedly denied. A DHS report found that the total wall project could cost as much as $22 billion. However, at last report, the agency had on hand only $20 million for construction and Trump's 2018 budget proposes just $1.6 billion for the project.
Last week the U.S. House Appropriations Committee proposed setting aside $1.6 billion for the wall project as part of its 2018 DHS funding bill. This amount would only pay for construction startup costs beyond what the prototypes will cost, and Democrats are holding fast in opposition to any U.S. spending on the project.