Border wall $1.6B bill includes cash for new San Diego wall

Rep. John Carter (R-TX) introduced an amendment to a bill that would allocate $1.6 billion for a proposed border
wall with Mexico. Pictured: Carter speaks as FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate testifies March 13, 2013 on Capitol Hill
in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)

July 26, 2017

Congress could vote as early as this week for a spending bill that would kickstart the building of a border wall in San Diego and Texas.

The $1.6 billion request in a House spending bill from Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, would include $251 million for 14 miles of secondary fencing in San Diego, and earmark $38.2 million for future wall construction along the entire border. A border wall between the United States and Mexico was a keystone of President Donald Trump’s campaign.

As reported by Politico, the border wall money is included in an amendment that is tied to military funding. If the Rules Committee approves that amendment, it would avoid a vote in the full House where moderate Republicans would likely vote against border wall funds. The spending package, called a minibus, would also put Democrats in an awkward position to have to vote against funding for the military and veterans.

Carter’s amendment is included in a bill for fiscal year 2018 (HR 3219) that includes spending for the Department of Energy, Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs.

At a committee hearing Monday, Carter said it was necessary to begin the border wall process to allow Department of Homeland Security time to buy land and stop drug smuggling.

“Every day we wait to begin these border wall projects is another day of delayed security of the United States,” he said.

State Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, introduced a bill in the California legislature in April that would block any company that works on the border wall from getting a state contract. He said Wednesday the latest turn of events in Washington, D.C., was indicative of the Trump administration.

“What we know is they are trying to skirt the public with these backdoor maneuvers to ensure this doesn’t come up to a public vote,” he said.

Lara said he would be amending his Senate Bill 30 to only go after primary contractors on a proposed border wall, not every single worker or small California business that steps on the job site.

“It is aimed at those set to make millions of dollars off California taxpayers should they move forward on trying to fund this ridiculous boondoggle,” he said.

San Diego continues to be a focus in Washington, D.C., whenever the border wall comes up. Carter told the committee Monday that San Diego’s barrier needed an upgrade.

“The existing border fence, which was constructed in the early ‘90s is old and falling apart,” he said.

Carter’s amendment would also include $784 million for 32 miles of new border fencing in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, and $498 million for 28 miles of a new levee wall, also in the Rio Grande Valley.

Customs and Border Protection already has $20 million approved to build four to eight border wall prototypes at the San Diego border near Otay Mesa. The process has already fallen behind schedule with construction originally set to be completed in June.

At a press conference last month in Washington, D.C., Ronald Vitiello, acting deputy commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, said the prototypes would be completed by September and take 30 days to build.

It would appear contractors have still not been selected for prototypes, despite Vitiello’s timeline that would allow for contractors to start building next week.

Carlos Diaz, spokesman for Border Protection, said Tuesday the prototypes would still be built this summer but did not provide any dates for when construction could start.

Lack of information from the Trump administration and Border Protection about the prototypes is the subject of two lawsuits from watchdog groups American Oversight and the Center for Biological Diversity.

Border Protection said in its bid that prototypes must be 30 feet tall, can’t be climbed and constructed to prevent digging below the wall for at least 6 feet. Roughly 460 companies replied to requests for proposals to build the wall prototypes, including 23 in San Diego County.