President Donald Trump said U.S. voters shouldn’t be discouraged Thursday by the apparent lack of progress on the border wall, the foundational pledge of his presidency. He tweeted that “The WALL, which is already under construction in the form of new renovation of old and existing fences and walls, will continue to be built.”
Despite Trump musing that the wall is being built, work has not commenced. Fences at the border have existed for decades and these are subject to routine maintenance over the years.
On the same day that Trump tweeted his assurances that the wall was actually being built, he also said the wall could wait. “We will build the wall later.”
He also admitted that the wall was a fundamental commitment that he made to his supporters and one that he could not easily withdraw from without significant political cost. “We have to have the wall. if we don’t have the wall we’re doing nothing,” he said in Florida when he arrived to observe the debris from Hurricane Irma.
That doesn’t sound like a man who really believes he has already begun to fulfill his promise to build the Wall.
Though it is true that there are some barriers that already exist on the U.S.-Mexican border, these fences have always been there and renovations are nothing new. As CNN reported, former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama were responsible for most, if not all, of these repairs. There is work going on in Sundland Park, New Mexico that even began before Trump became president.
Moreover, these minor modifications have nothing to do with the project that Trump pitched American voters during the campaign. He was clearly talking about a new and massive wall — not a barbed-wire fence nor a cyber barricade — because he frequently compared his wall to the Great Wall of China.
There is actually some preliminary work going on with the wall, but only in the form of models being constructed to show what it might look like. The LA Times reports that you can see these models at the Otay Mesa site near San Diego along with a chain-link fence, but the companies that are expecting to begin work can’t say when the actual construction will begin.
There is an eight-foot-high fence at the location, but that’s been put there to keep potential protesters away from the area if construction actually does begin some day. The Customs and Border Protection officials in charge of the project have even met with the local sheriff’s office to prepare for any demonstrations that are certain to result if the wall ever goes up.
There is even talk of putting protesters in an assigned area to keep them away from the workers.
“In our effort to better protect the people of this county, the department is currently evaluating the need and possible location of a ‘free speech’ area where citizens can peacefully express their viewpoints,” sheriff spokesman Ryan Keim said in a statement.
So is the wall already under construction? Absolutely not: it seems to be in an interminable holding pattern.