Chek the Channels
Building the Big Beautiful Wall
(Note: all the sources listed in the "Balanced" section)
Shortly after the presidential election, construction companies began a fierce competition to win the contract to build Trump’s “big, beautiful wall” that was promised during his presidential campaign. Out of the many competitors there were only six contractors who were selected to present prototypes to the Border Patrol for testing. Now, as the border wall controversy has forced our government into a partial shutdown these wall construction contractors wait powerlessly as the contract of a lifetime hangs in the balance.
What won’t he do for a wall? The construction of a border wall was perhaps the most central component of Trump’s campaign, and it seems that the President will stop at nothing to fulfill his campaign promise. In a Rose Garden news conference, President Trump emphasized his commitment to the wall by warning that the partial government shutdown could go on for years and by asserting that he has the power to declare a national emergency to build the wall without Congress. In his most recent proposal, the President even offered to temporarily extend the legal status of immigrants protected by DACA, an Obama era program that Trump strongly opposes. At this point, it is hard to say what the President wouldn’t do to build his wall, but it seems clear that he is willing to go further than anyone else. With the most powerful man in the world in their corner, the wall builders can rest assured that they will be building more than just prototypes.
Prototypes for what could’ve been. Early on in Trump’s presidency, Congress set aside $20 million to build eight border wall prototypes. In order to meet the requirements the prototypes needed to: be at least 30 feet tall, be able to prevent scaling using anti-climbing features, be strong enough that no hole larger than a foot can be made using hand tools in under an hour, be able to be constructed on slopes up to 45%, be able to prevent tunneling from below for at least 6 feet, and be cost-effective. Though many entered bids only six construction companies were selected to build the prototypes. The lucky few include: Fisher Sand & Gravel, KWR Construction, Texas Sterling Construction, Caddell Construction, ELTA North America, and W.G. Yates & Sons Construction. The prototypes now stand completed in the remote borderlands near San Diego, but the last few weeks of political theater have left these contractors wondering if any of the prototypes will ever get built. In a recent tweet President Trump backed down from his original vision saying, “We are now planning a steel barrier rather than concrete.” This is bad news for the wall construction contractors, whose prototypes are largely comprised of concrete.
“And who’s gonna pay for it?” This concession is only the latest that Trump has made on his wall promises. In fact, according to a recent Politico article Trump backed down from his campaign promise in his very first interview as president-elect indicating that he might settle for fencing “in certain areas.” However, the most disappointing campaign promise must be his original assertion that Mexico will pay for it. Nevertheless, the president still maintains that Mexico will pay us back via a yet-to-be-approved trade agreement. The Department of Homeland Security estimated the cost of the proposed wall to be about $21 billion, however other estimates range from $8 billion to $70 billion according to a Fox News report. Recently, a Washington Post article reported that Trump would not settle for a spending bill that didn’t have at least $5.7 billion set aside for his wall. Even so, that wouldn’t come close to covering the cost of a substantial border wall that is nearly 2000 miles long. As the shutdown drags on, it is certainly possible that we will see Trump make additional concessions in this budget negotiation. Meanwhile, the wall builders must sit and wait as all their hopes and dreams crumble before their eyes.
Seal the deal. Earlier today, the Senate voted against the proposed bills to fund the government leaving no clear path toward ending the shutdown. Nevertheless, whether it’s a border of concrete, steel, or a “beaded curtain” as Speaker Nancy Pelosi joked, the President will likely secure some funding to build something. Even though the political gridlock on this issue has pushed us into the longest government shutdown in our history, the intensifying pressure makes it only more likely that concessions will be made and a deal will be struck. In other words:
“The worst of times often create the best opportunities to make good deals.”
- Donald J. Trump, Trump: The Art of the Deal
Trump Administration Selects Contractors For Border Wall Prototypes, Richard Gonzales, NPR, August 31, 2017
A look at Trump’s border wall prototypes, Aaron Steckelberg, Chris Alcantara and Tracy Jan, Washington Post, March 13, 2018
From ‘wall' to ‘barrier’: How Trump’s vision for the border keeps changing, Gabby Orr, Politico, January 8, 2019
Trump calls wall only solution to ‘growing humanitarian crisis’ at border, Philip Rucker and Felicia Sonmez, Washington Post, January 8, 2019
Contractor hopes for a piece of Trump's border wall – no matter who pays for it, Barnini Chakraborty, Fox News, January 5, 2019
Trump proves an enigmatic negotiator as government shutdown continues with no end in sight, Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim, Washington Post, January 3, 2019
Trump threatens years-long shutdown for his wall as GOP support begins to fracture, Seung Min Kim, Erica Werner and Josh Dawsey, Boston Globe, January 5, 2019
Trump offers DACA protections in exchange for border wall; Democrats opposed, David Jackson, USA Today, January 19, 2019
Shutdown continues: Senate blocks bills to fund government amid fight over Trump border wall, Jacob Pramuk, CNBC, January 24, 2019