Contracts to build 40 more miles of new border wall have been announced for Texas’ busy and crime-infested Laredo Sector.
The construction project will include a 30-foot-tall steel bollard wall, all-weather roads, lighting, enforcement cameras and other technology “to create a complete enforcement zone,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said in a statement.
The project follows earlier announcements of contracts for 31 miles of border wall in the sector, which fronts 171 miles of the Rio Grande.
CBP calls the Laredo Sector “an area of high illegal activity,” with more than 43,000 apprehensions of illegal border crossers and seizure of more than 39,000 pounds of drugs during the 2020 fiscal year. “The majority of this activity is occurring in areas that lack infrastructure, access and mobility and technology,” CBP said.
Though CBP says it is working “expeditiously” to add new wall segments, the agency’s timetable gives illegal migrants and drug cartels plenty of time to plan a workaround. CBP expects construction to begin in September 2021, “pending availability of real estate.”
In some cases, haste may make waste. A three-mile section of privately funded wall downriver in Mission, Texas, is in danger of collapsing, according to a recent engineering study.
North Dakota-based Fisher Sand and Gravel, which built that portion of wall, as well as several sections elsewhere, dismissed the concerns. But the dispute has been tacked onto a federal indictment against the We Build the Wall nonprofit, which has raised more than $25 million to erect border barriers.
More controversy erupted after the Army Corps of Engineers gave Fisher a nearly $1.3-billion “task order” for 42 miles of wall in Arizona. That award, the largest single wall building contract to date, was made amid ongoing scrutiny of yet another Fisher wall contract, currently under investigation by the U.S. Defense Department Inspector General.
Despite all this — and Fisher’s aggressive use of lawsuits and bid protests to land wall work — CBP last month went ahead and awarded the firm a $283,150,000 contract to build 27 miles of Laredo’s newest wall.
At a total cost of $484,400,000, the 40-mile stretch is part of a southwestern border wall initiative whose price tag has been variously pegged between $8 billion and $70 billion, an estimate, which even at the high end, is still significantly less than annual price tag for providing benefits and services to illegal aliens and their dependents.
With litigation and investigations swirling around one of the largest wall contractors, the higher estimates may prove closer to the mark.