President Trump tipped his preference for the design of his proposed border wall toward a see-through version with vertical bars, which would narrow the eight current prototypes he saw on Tuesday’s trip to Southern California down to just two.
“For the people that say ‘no wall,’ if you didn’t have walls over here, you wouldn’t even have a country,” Trump declared on his tour of the prototypes at Otay Mesa outside San Diego.
Trump said he leaned toward the see-through versions because “you have to know what’s on the other side of the wall,” a concern previously voiced by Border Patrol agents and reiterated Tuesday.
“The problem is, you don’t know what’s on the other side of the wall. And if you don’t know what’s on — I mean, you could be two feet away from a criminal cartel and you don’t even know they’re there,” Trump said. “…But getting over the top is easy. These are like professional mountain climbers. They’re incredible climbers. They can’t climb some of these walls. Some of them they can. Those are the walls we’re not using.”
Trump was accompanied by White House chief of staff John Kelly, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, Acting CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, Acting Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and his father, former Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.). Mexican police gathered on the other side of the border
James O’Loughlin, the project manager, walked Trump through the line of mini-walls, explaining details of the various sections erected for review. San Diego Sector Chief Border Patrol Agent Rodney Scott gave the president a first-hand account of the situation on the ground, showing him a poster with photos of what the California-Mexico border looked like before and after the current fence was put in place.
The prototypes are being weighed for whether or not they’re easily breached either over the top or by digging underneath, as well as how strong they are in stopping a vehicle. Four of the prototypes are made of concrete, while the rest are composed of mixed materials. The segments soar to a height of about 30 feet, and descend six feet into the ground. One international company is among those that were chosen to build prototypes: Israeli defense contractor ELTA.
Having yet to secure funding from Congress for a wall, Trump said he liked that the better versions he saw also weren’t the most expensive. “Some work very well; some don’t work so well,” he said. “When we build, we want to build the right thing.”
Trump called the wall America’s “first and last” line of defense, “other than the great ICE agents and other people moving people out.”‘
“Cooperation with Mexico is another crucial element of border security. DHS coordinates closely with the Mexican law enforcement, and we must absolutely build on that cooperation. Both countries recognize the need to stem the cross-border flow of illegal weapons, drugs, people, and cash,” he said. “I have a great relationship with the president of Mexico, a wonderful guy — Enrique. Terrific guy. We’re working — we’re trying to work things out. We’ll see whether or not it happens. I don’t know that it’s going to happen. He’s a very good negotiator. He loves the people of Mexico, and he’s working very hard. We’ll see what happens.”
“But we have to, obviously, have a couple of disagreements before we get there. You’ll see over the next month whether or not it takes place in this administration, meaning his administration. They have an election coming up. I hear they have some very good people running, and they have some that maybe aren’t so good. In any event, we’ll handle it.”
Trump promised that he’ll get “security at the border, and we’re getting it like we’ve never had it before — but we want to make it perfecto.”
Nielsen said after Trump’s visit that a border wall “is only one of the tools we need to secure the border – the wall system also involves mission-ready agents, patrol roads, sensor technology, and support resources.”
“But importantly it also includes the ability to promptly remove illegal aliens, terrorists and criminals, closing often exploited loopholes in our immigration system,” she added in a statement. “After speaking with our frontline operators at the border today, their message underscores the urgency for Congress to take action and find legislative solutions to secure our border and make America safe.”