The Trump administration has not built any walls to protect previously unbarricaded sections of America’s southern border, U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed exclusively to DailyMail.com on Thursday.
President Donald Trump has boasted in the past that ‘[w]e have already built large new sections’ during his time in the White House.
Border barriers erected between the U.S. and Mexico since Inauguration Day 2017 have consisted of supplements to existing walls and replacements for outmoded or decreipt barriers.
But ‘[t]he first new wall project, where no barrier currently exists, is anticipated to start in April,’ CBP spokesman Roger Maier said in an email. He identified Hidalgo County as the construction project’s location, a border zone along a meandering 50-mile stretch of the Rio Grande.
CBP said last year that it was ‘designing and constructing approximately 25 miles of levee wall system’ in that county, whose anchor is the the border city of McAllen.
President Trump visited McAllen on January 11, boasting of wall renovations that he framed as ‘new’ construction. ‘I will say, we’ve done a lot of renovation. And we have a lot of new wall going up where we took down wall because it was in such bad shape, and we put new wall up,’ he said.
The president has been less ambiguous on other occasions. He wrote on Twitter that ‘newly built walls’ were stopping caravans of Central American migrants from entering the U.S., and that ‘[w]e have already built large new sections’ in addition to ongoing renovations.
That appears to be untrue.
Maier said that ‘CBP has constructed approximately 38 of 40 miles of wall in place of outdated designs,’ using funds Congress appropriatedfor fiscal 2017.
Those replacements are up in San Diego and El Centro, California; Santa Teresa, New Mexico; and El Paso, Texas.
‘This barrier replaced dilapidated infrastructure, half of which was Normandy-style vehicle barrier,’ he said.
‘Construction has also started on the San Diego Secondary replacement, the first project funded in [fiscal] 2018. The first new wall project, where no barrier currently exists, is anticipated to start in April in Hidalgo County of the Rio Grande Valley Sector.’
Trump has rediirected billions of dollars to his wall project through a national emergency declaration, claiming at the same time that the project is well underway.
Both houses of Congress voted this week to rescind that declaration with a resolution that the president vetoed on Friday.
Some of Trump’s claims about his construction described sections of border wall where none existed before, something CBP now says doesn’t exist.
In January he tweeted a complaint that ‘[t]he Fake News Media keeps saying we haven’t built any NEW WALL.’
He provided a photograph of a section of border wall, saying: ‘Below is a section just completed on the Border. Anti-climbing feature included. Very high, strong and beautiful! Also, many miles already renovated and in service!’
Trump didn’t say where the photo was taken, but a date-stamp indicated it was created in October.
Trump drew applause and chants of ‘Build the wall!’ in 2015 and 2016 as he campaigned for the White House, promising to physically separate the U.S. from its southern neighbor with an impenetrable barrier and force Mexico to pay the bill.
That financial pledge morphed into a promise to recoup the cost of a wall by re-engineering America’s trade relationship with Mexico in a way that would benefit taxpayers.
As president he first began to claim limited success with his ambitious project in the fall of 2017, tweeting that construction to date consisted of ‘new renovation of old and existing fences and walls.’
More recently his campaign-style rallies as president have featured supporters waving ‘Finish the wall!’ signs – not ‘Build the wall!’ – along with placards that read, ‘Promises made, promises kept.’
Trump claimed Saturday on Twitter that ‘[m]ajor sections of Wall are being built.’ He tweeted a day earlier that his long-promised border wall ‘is being built and is well under construction.’
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday. After this story was published, a spokesman emailed to say ‘we have the data for new walls,’ and promised it Friday morning. That information never came.
CBP’s disclosure came as a result of a request for information on Tuesday after conservative pundit Ann Coulter challenged the president to identify exactly where his administration had erected new border barriers.
‘The President’s tweet says he’s already building the Wall. Could he give me the precise latitude and longitude of its location?’ she asked. ‘Also, how many miles long is it?’
‘I want to throw a party there and need the exact coordinates,’ she told DailyMail.com.
Trump’s public statements about his project this year have boasted of new wall construction – not renovation of older structures. ‘The Wall is being built and will be a great achievement,’ he tweeted February 12.
A week later his Twitter feed published a time-lapse video appearing to show a section of steel-slatted bollard wall being erected ‘in New Mexico.’ The tweet said it was ‘[c]ompleted on January 30, 2019 – 47 days ahead of schedule! Many miles more now under construction!’
The footage bore the logo of the Army Corps of Engineers, a federal agency that serves as general contractor for large federal public-works projects.
An Army Corps spokesman told a military blog the following day that the video was shot on Sep. 18, 2018. It consisted of ‘a replacement project,’ pre-approved repair work, and not a new wall where no barrier previously stood.
The New York Times reported in January that ‘no new miles of barriers had been built’ during the Trump administration, although [s]ome existing barriers have been replaced.’
CBP’s statement on Thursday marks the first time the Trump administration has confirmed this is true.
The agency’s website indicates that about 654 miles of physical barriers block portions of the 1.954-mile southern U.S. border.
That includes 280 miles of vehicle fencing, including ‘Normandy-style’ barriers that can stop a car but not a person on foot. Pedestrian fencing, designed to prevent people from climbing onto American soil, covers another 374 miles.
Trump insisted on Saturday that he’s still serious about physically separating the U.S. and Mexico, and claimed in a tweet that ‘[m]ajor sections of Wall are being built and renovated, with MUCH MORE to follow shortly.’
‘Tens of thousands of illegals are being apprehended (captured) at the Border and NOT allowed into our Country,’ he wrote.
‘With another President, millions would be pouring in. I am stopping an invasion as the Wall gets built. #MAGA.’