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KPBS Midday Edition

Trump Administration Plans Border Wall Models In Summer

The border fence between San Diego and Tijuana is pictured, Sept. 19, 2016.
Katie Schoolov
The border fence between San Diego and Tijuana is pictured, Sept. 19, 2016.
Trump Administration Plans Border Wall Models In Summer
Trump Administration Plans Border Wall Models In Summer GUEST:Phillip Molnar, reporter, The San Diego Union Tribune

This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. Construction on prototypes for the proposed border wall was supposed to begin last month near Otay Mesa. As of now, officials have not awarded contracts for the prototypes. The head of U.S. customs and border protection told reporters that the samples are set to be completed by September. The delay in the process is a problem they are facing the border wall proposal. Joining me is reporter Phillip Molnar who joins us from the newsroom. Welcome to the program. Thank you for having me. Reminders about this border wall selection process. How many contractors are they thinking about selecting and what are the requirements for the prototypes? The federal government has given $20 million to build the prototypes of a border wall. The hope is that once they are constructed, they will get an idea of what would work best for a border wall for the full 2000 miles along the border. The prototypes need to be about 30 feet tall. You can't climb over them and build under them. You have to be really tough to break through the walls. It's pretty heavy duty down there with the prototypes. They say that they are going to award 4 to 8 companies to build prototypes in the area. So that is what we are looking at right now but they had hundreds of people apply to build the border wall. Did the officials explain why the project has started? No, they have not. I've asked him directly white and they held a press conference and I got the audio recording from that. Reporters also asked them why it was running behind schedule and they did not have a response. You say that the $20 million has been allocated what about the funding for the actual construction of the border wall where does that stand? The Congress has not awarded money for that yet. It is in the billions and billions of dollars. Some estimates have about 21.6 billion for the first border wall so that is a large chunk of change and they has not -- have not approved it. Some people think there's nothing going on but with this $20 million allocated, they are started -- starting the process. Any stand out in your mind as really sort of either out there or good ideas? Someone had built a monorail which would go along the border wall so it would be a wall but you could also write a train on it. That guy was based in National City. The art was pretty nice but he wasn't selected. The one that kind of stood out is there's a company based in Las Vegas that came up with a border wall proposal that would have solar panels on top and that company is getting a lot of press attention because Donald Trump has been really pushing the idea of a solar panel wall along the border. He's been saying that he came up to the idea but we did interview that company back in April. So after the prototypes are constructed, do we know what will happen to them? We customs and border protection told me that they may keep them down there and then the Commissioner last week also said that they may stay down there. I'm not really sure what that is going to look like. Nobody is for sure and border protection is not offering a lot of answers. During the news conference in Washington last week, it was sort of about the delay in the selection process and where we are on the idea of these border wall prototypes. Can you tell us about the border fence. It was interesting. The acting deputy commissioner just brought up San Diego's example of what the city could be if you close up the border. He kept bringing up operation gatekeeper from the 90s that put in our own -- I'm still not sure what to call it -- should I call it a wall or fence? Since we've put a barrier in San Diego county, you've seen the amount of legal crossings Dashiell illegal crossings drop. He pointed to that as his example of why we need a border wall and white it needs it. He went back to San Diego many times. Will the public be able to see the prototypes when they are built in San Diego? Well, I believe so. I've done a public records request to see all of the winning proposals. Hopefully if I get that, I will be able to share that with you at KPBS. I'm not quite sure yet. I might be touring down there in a couple of weeks. If that doesn't happen, I know the area where they are building the prototypes is pretty isolated and I think it's going to be hard for protesters to get there. However, right across from where they are building in Tijuana is a rundown industrial but also there is neighborhood housing on the Mexican side and you can see where they are going to build it clear as day. So unless they are putting up huge tarps, we should be getting some pretty good photos. I've been speaking with Phillip Molnar and Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.

The agency in charge of U.S. border security plans to start building prototypes for President Donald Trump's proposed wall with Mexico later this summer.

Ronald Vitiello, Customs and Border Protection's acting deputy commissioner, said Tuesday that four to eight companies will get contracts for prototypes in San Diego that could be models for the roughly 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) border. Companies will have 30 days to complete the models.

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Vitiello says it's impractical to build a wall on about 130 miles (209 kilometers) of border where there are already natural barriers, like lakes or canyons.

Trump's budget proposal for 2018 includes $1.6 billion for 74 miles (118 kilometers) of wall in Texas' Rio Grande Valley and San Diego. There are currently 654 miles (1,046 kilometers) of fencing.