"Build that wall! Build that wall!" has become a familiar refrain at Donald Trump's rallies. A year after his election to the presidency, the project remains a work in progress.
The former reality television star's campaign-trail trope became Washington lawmakers' figure-it-out reality when Trump bested Hillary Clinton in Election 2016. The proposal has transformed into a taxpayer-funded political football. (No, Mexico's not paying for it.) And while the "big, beautiful wall" Trump promised hasn't come to fruition, advances are being made.
The Department of Homeland Security earlier this year redirected $20 million of its budget to the border wall for construction, prototyping and other related expenses such as studies, engineering tests and soil samples. That amount is less than 0.1% of the reported $21.6 billion estimated cost of the entire wall.
The funds allowed U.S. Customs and Border Protection to release two calls for proposals for the wall project in March, for which they received more than 100 bids. In the late summer, CBP awarded contracts to six companies -- Caddell Construction Co., Fisher & Sand Gravel Co., Texas Sterling Construction Co., W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Company, KWR Construction, Inc. and ELTA North America Inc. -- for eight prototypes.
"These prototypes, which are intended to deter illegal crossings, will help us refine the design standards and security requirements that will meet the needs of the U.S. border patrol," CBP Acting Deputy Commissioner Ronald Vitiello said in an August press conference. "The prototypes and resulting wall infrastructure will complement the various other tools that we employ to secure our borders."
Prototype construction started in late September and is just finishing up. Four of the prototypes are made of concrete. The other four are made from non-concrete materials. All are between 18 and 30 feet high -- The Washington Post has a breakdown of each prototype here.
Now, border patrol agents will try them out to see what works best.
"We're going to test it for breachability. For the subterranean aspect," Roy Villareal, the Deputy Chief Patrol Agent of the San Diego Sector of CBP, told NBC News, which recently got a look at all of the prototypes. "Can we dig under it? Can we cut through it? Can we scale over it?"
To be sure, having a handful of 30-foot prototypes is a far cry from the construction Trump and many of his supporters envision.
"This is the first tangible result of the action planning that has gone on. This is the use of the resources that we have available for this year," Vitiello said in August, alluding to a major impediment to the project: money.
Mexico isn't paying for the wall (even Trump seemed to admit as much in a leaked transcript of a call with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto). A lot of members of Congress don't want to, either.
The White House has requested $1.6 billion in the 2018 budget for the border wall. CBP Acting Chief Carla Provost in testimony before Congress in June said the funds would go toward 32 miles of new border wall system and 28 miles of new levee wall in Rio Grande Valley Sector, as well as 14 miles of a secondary border wall system in San Diego. "Tactical infrastructure, including physical barriers, has long been a critical component of CBP's multi-layered and risk-based approach to securing our Southern border," she said.
The House passed a bill including the $1.6 billion in wall funding over the summer, but it went nowhere in the Senate.
Democrats have resisted funding Trump's border wall. The matter could soon come to a head when government funding expires in December, forcing lawmakers to the table to strike a deal or face a shutdown. Lawmakers have indicated that they would also like reach a compromise on DACA, which allows undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to work here legally, and it is unclear how the wall will play into that.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) after striking a three-month funding deal with Trump in September said when the issue came up again they would work on a border security package with the president "excluding the wall." But wall money is what Trump says he wants.
"I would love to do a DACA deal, but we have to get something very substantial for it, including the wall," he told reporters on October 25.
TheStreet's feature series "Inside Trump's First Year" looks at the biggest stories in business over the last year fueled by one of the most unpredictable presidents in history. Most importantly, TheStreet offers a glimpse into what could happen in 2018 on a range of issues -- and stocks -- in what will probably be an equally chaotic second year for Trump. Read more by tapping the photo below.
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