The United States government is beginning work on a stretch of border wall in south Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, according to the Associated Press, even though Republicans and Democrats are still at an impasse over whether to continue funding the full border wall project.
Construction equipment "began to arrive on Monday," according to reports, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents have begun staging the equipment along the 33-mile stretch marked for building and improvements.
The areas of border wall now under construction are already funded, but only to the tune of about $600 million. The United States government awarded the contract to build the Rio Grande section of border wall back in November of last year to a Galveston, Texas, company that won a contest hosted by the Department of Homeland Security. They'll build approximately 8 miles of border wall first, at a cost of around $167 million, and then move on to a more permanent concrete barrier in late February.
U.S. News and World Report says that Customs and Border Protection plans to build a customized "border wall system" on the stretch of land, including around 25 miles of concrete border wall topped with 18-foot-high steel posts and a 150-foot "enforcement zone" in front.
Construction will also include capital improvements to the Rio Grande levee system that runs along the river on the Texas side of the border, according to plans released by CBP late last year.
The project won't be easy. Aside from the basic concerns of construction — and concerns over whether the "border wall system" will work to prevent illegal immigrants from crossing into south Texas, and specifically Hidalgo County, the new section of fencing will cut through the National Butterfly Center and the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, a "corridor" for migrating endangered species and other wildlife.
The North American Butterfly Association, which owns and operates the National Butterfly Center, recently filed suit to enjoin the border wall project, claiming the wall would cut NABA off from around two-thirds of the butterfly refuge, imperiling its mission to "conserve butterflies and their habitats."
The group has also pledged to "tear down" the wall if they win their lawsuit after the project is completed.
Preliminary work on President Donald Trump's border wall project is beginning in other areas of the country as well. Even as Democrats refuse to come to the bargaining table on the next round of border wall funding — a grant of approximately $5.7 billion to the Department of Homeland Security which should have been included in Congress' fiscal year 2019 budget — the Government Accountability Office is readying studies on several border wall prototypes built in the California desert at the request of the Trump Administration.
Arizona also received new razor wire barriers this week along a stretch of border wall near Nogales.