Construction of U.S.-Mexico border wall prototypes begins despite lack of funding

Prototypes for Mexico border wall

Federal contractors are working on eight versions of a proposed border wall to divide the U.S. and Mexico. Although the wall, one of President Trump's chief campaign promises, has yet to be funded the contractors are essentially auditioning for the full government contract.

Those prototypes are being built in a remote area of California, about two miles east of the San Diego-Tijuana border, where there are already two existing walls in place, reports CBS News' Mireya Villarreal.

CBS News cameras were rolling Tuesday before Border Patrol officials prepared to speak to the media, when a Mexican man jumped over the fence behind them and ran into the United States. Juan Gomez, a young father from Chiapas, Mexico, was arrested by Border Patrol agents.

Gomez told CBS News that he came here for work and for a better future. 

Acting Border Patrol sector chief Roy Villarreal says his agents need more help.
"Having worked for 29 years along the border, it has been a constant evolution. We're arresting over half a million people, illegal entrants, a year," the chief said. 

Construction began near San Diego on prototypes for a U.S.-Mexico border wall, Sept. 26, 2017. U.S. Customs and Border Protection

In Alabama last week, President Trump said the new wall will be done in six or seven months. Few people believe that's likely. The president has also called for certain features in public that are at odds with the initial instructions given to contractors.

"You need to have a great wall but it has to be see-through. We are looking at different examples already of see-through walls. And I think also to be honest with you a see-through wall would look better," Trump said.

Eight prototypes will be built ranging from 18 to 30 feet high and stretching 30 feet long. Four of them will be made with concrete and four with "alternate materials." Contractors can work around the clock for 30 days to build their version of the wall. Roy Villarreal told reporters that in the end, the government's choice may be a combination of designs.

Opponents of the wall say it's a waste of money that won't make Americans safer.

"These prototypes will only serve to get the president to send another tweet and won't do a single thing to protect our security along the border," said Christian Ramirez, the human rights director of Alliance San Diego, which represents more than 60 groups that oppose the wall.

"This is nothing else and political theater at the expense of taxpayers," Ramirez said.

The prototypes will cost about $500,000 apiece. The Trump administration has asked for $1.6 billion in financing to start the new wall project.

But so far, Congress has not approved that – let alone the tens of billions that would be required for the president's full border security plan.