The bruising battle over the border wall narrative continues between the media and Donald Trump. On Tuesday, outlets reported that the Trump administration had only built 1.7 miles with the $1.57 billion allocated by Congress, prompting Trump to take to Twitter to declare the "haters" "wrong." The next day a new report admitted that Trump is right that the 1.7-mile figure isn't really correct, though the total miles built thus far is still way behind schedule.
"U.S. Customs and Border Protection has put up just 1.7 miles of fencing with the US$1.57 billion that Congress appropriated last year for President Donald Trump’s wall along the Mexican border, a federal judge was told," BNN Bloomberg reported Tuesday. "A lawyer for the U.S. House of Representatives provided the information Tuesday to the judge in Oakland, California, who is weighing requests from 20 state attorneys general and the the Sierra Club to block Trump from using funds not authorized by Congress to build the wall."
In apparent response to the claim, Trump tweeted Wednesday that critics are attempting to dismiss all the work that's been done rebuilding and repairing old barrier fences. "Much of the Wall being built at the Southern Border is a complete demolition and rebuilding of old and worthless barriers with a brand new Wall and footings," he wrote. "Problem is, the Haters say that is not a new Wall, but rather a renovation. Wrong, and we must build where most needed. Also, tremendous work is being done on pure renovation — fixing existing Walls that are in bad condition and ineffective, and bringing them to a very high standard!"
In an exclusive report on Wednesday, the Daily Mail provided more detailed numbers straight from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, proving the suggestion that the $1.57 billion only paid for 1.7 miles of new wall is misleading and that more of the wall has been constructed, though not nearly to the degree proponents would like to see.
In a "Border Wall Status" update issued Monday, the CBP reports that thus far $6.1 billion has been allocated to building the wall, which it estimates will result in a total of "approximately 336 total miles" of border wall over the next couple of years. The report provides a breakdown of the different types of wall construction the 336 total miles will include:
- 86 miles of new primary wall
- 24 miles of new levee wall
- 68 miles of updated primary wall
- 144 miles of updated vehicle wall
- 14 miles of updated secondary wall
Thus, a total of 110 miles of the project will be "new" wall, while approximately 226 miles will be "updated" construction.
Thus far, 20 miles of new border wall has been constructed "through the traditional appropriations process and via Treasury Forfeiture Funding," the CBP reports.
In addition, the report specifies that "approximately 39.5, or about 99%, of the 40 miles of new border wall in place of pedestrian fence and vehicle barrier funded by the FY 2017 enacted budget" has been completed. Thus, around 60 miles of new wall has been completed during Trump's presidency when the budget secured by the Obama administration is included.
The Daily Mail frames this as more negative news for Trump. "If it's the case that those 39.5 miles were completed during the Obama presidency, it would mean Trump's predecessor put up more border walls in his final four months as president than he has in the past 28 months," the outlet notes.
As for the "1.7 miles" claim, the Daily Mail explains why that "turned out to be only partially accurate": "Federal contracting rules, along with the time consumed by construction, can mean a year or more goes by between when agencies receive money and when a project is finished." While the $1.57 billion allocated by Congress may have only yielded about 2 miles thus far, it will eventually result in 80 miles of wall sections. (See the complete CBP report here.)