The Department of Homeland Security has selected a construction site near San Diego where competing companies will build border wall prototypes in hopes of scoring the most prominent job in federal contracting.
Construction will kick off in the border town of Otay Mesa on a strip of federally-owned land near the Otay-Tijuana crossing, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials confirmed Monday afternoon.
CBP has received over 400 designs from interested companies and has said it will select 20 finalists to build models for testing and evaluation, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The winning bidders will be announced sometime after June 1.
A spokesman for the U.S. Border Patrol said Monday that an exact location for the construction has yet to be determined, but it will occur in the Otay Mesa area.
Eric Frost, director of San Diego State University’s graduate program in homeland security, told the Union-Tribune that the Otay Mesa area is a logical choice for border wall testing because it has a high volume of cross-border traffic both legal and illegal.
“A lot of trucks already use it,” Frost said of the Otay Mesa crossing. “You want to look at how they actually interact with the fence.”
Building the first stages of the massive project on federal land also gives the government time to work out land use issues along the Rio Grande River in Texas, where much of the land is privately owned. The Trump administration is preparing for protracted legal battles with landowners over the use of eminent domain.
CBP plans to initiate separate border barrier projects in the San Diego area and parts of the Rio Grande Valley in addition to wall prototypes, the Union-Tribune reported. The administration’s initial $999 million dollar funding request for the wall included 14 miles of new wall along San Diego’s border with Mexico, 14 miles of replacement fencing in the the same area, and 28 miles of new levee barriers and six miles of new border wall in the Rio Grande Valley.
How the full 2,000-mile wall will be funded remains an open question. Some Republican leaders in Congress have balked at inserting additional funding into a resolution designed to avoid a government shutdown because of expected Democratic opposition to a bill that includes it. (RELATED: How Congress Could Block Funding For One Of Donald Trump’s Signature Campaign Promises, The Border Wall)
Trump has repeatedly promised that Mexico will eventually pay for the wall, but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the subject did not come up during his meeting last week with Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray. (RELATED: Tillerson Didn’t Mention The Biggest Issue During Talks With Mexico)
Republican Reps. Mike Rogers of Michigan and Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania introduced a bill in March that would fund the wall by levying a 2 percent tax on wire transfers of money from the U.S to Mexico and Central America.
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