President Donald Trump is poised to make good on his signature issue — a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border — starting in El Paso and two sites in Arizona and California, as the federal government begins seeking bids to build it.
The Department of Homeland Security quietly identified this week three sites where the government will build the first phase of the wall: near El Paso, Tucson, Ariz., and El Centro, Calif. However, the construction will replace already existing fencing that is “no longer effective” while the agency assesses the entire 2,000 mile border.
On Friday, the Department of Homeland Security issued a preliminary solicitation for bids “for the design and build of several prototype wall structures in the vicinity of the United States border with Mexico.” It did not identify a specific location other than “to be determined.” The Request for Proposals will go out March 6 asking for concept papers. The final bids with pricing are due March 24.
“Multiple awards are contemplated by mid-April for this effort,” said the announcement. Estimates for the cost of building a wall from the Brownsville to San Diego have ranged from $15 billion to $25 billion.
The idea of a border wall has been particularly incendiary in El Paso.
“That wall in itself is a racist reaction to a racist myth that does not reflect the reality of this country at all,” U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, said last month. On Friday, he held a lengthy town hall meeting and fielded questions about the wall and earlier this week toured McAllen, another border city.
O’Rourke told the American-Statesman Friday that the wall is “unnecessary and a waste of resources,” noting that El Paso is the safest city in America, according to FBI crime data.
With Mexican immigration in decline, he said, border crossers increasingly are Central Americans fleeing harsh conditions and gangs. “A wall’s not going to stop Central Americans from seeking shelter. … You can build a wall of kyrptonite 20 feet high and these kids are still going to be seeking refuge.”
U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, whose district includes 800 miles of border, also opposes a border wall. He has said, “building a wall is the most expensive and least effective way to secure the border.” He also has underscored the physical challenges to building a wall in rugged West Texas.
Hurd was traveling this week and unavailable for comment.
The three starting locations for the Trump administration’s wall were included in Department of Homeland Security documentation released Tuesday as part of Secretary John Kelly’s two memoranda to implement Trump’s sweeping immigration executive orders. However, they were little noticed because they were included in a Q and A page of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol website.
The Trump Administration continues to grapple with how to pay for the wall, which the president has insisted will be on Mexico’s dime, and the Homeland Security memo said that officials will be identifying all federal aid to Mexico signaling a potential diversion of funding. The administration also has floated the idea of a 20 percent border tax on imported goods.