Pandemic isn't slowing Trump's border wall ambitions

A small group of Americans need not worry about furloughs or layoffs: those working on constructing barriers along the U.S./Mexico border.
Image:
People reach through the wall from the Mexican side at the conclusion of the Hugs Not Walls event on the U.S.-Mexico border on October 13, 2018 in Sunland Park, N.M.Mario Tama / Getty Images

Countless businesses have been shuttered by the pandemic and related mitigation efforts, but one small group of Americans need not worry about furloughs or layoffs: those working on constructing barriers along the U.S./Mexico border. They appear to have iron clad job security.

Politico reported the other day that administration officials haven't halted construction of Donald Trump's "wall" project, and some members of Congress want to hear an explanation as to why.

Senate Democrats are pressing the Department of Homeland Security on Friday to explain why the wall on the southern border is still being built during the coronavirus pandemic and amid strict national social distancing guidance. In a letter to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, five Democrats with jurisdiction over homeland security matters said the administration owes Congress an updated Border Security Improvement Plan and one that reflects the dangers of construction work during the coronavirus crisis.

The letter from the five Democratic senators -- signed by Montana's Jon Tester, New Hampshire's Jeanne Shaheen, Wisconsin's Tammy Baldwin, and Washington's Patty Murray -- explained that the ongoing construction efforts "may be dangerous for workers and communities alike."

They added, "The administration's pursuit of border wall construction during a global pandemic puts workers and communities at risk, and possibly violates state and local public health guidance to further prevent the spread of the coronavirus.... This is a real and evolving concern. Americans deserve to understand any potential impact a border wall might serve in fighting the coronavirus, if any."

The letter comes against a backdrop in which the Daily Beast reported that the Army Corps of Engineers last week awarded a lucrative wall contract to BFBC, a Montana firm described as "a reliable contributor to Republican politicians." The report added the contract will pay the company over $33 million per mile for border barriers, "steeply above the $20 million-per-mile average that the Trump administration is already doling out for the wall."

And in case that weren't quite enough, the Washington Post learned by way of a Freedom of Information Act request that smugglers "sawed into new sections of President Trump's border wall 18 times in the San Diego area during a single one-month span late last year."

Remember when Donald Trump insisted that no one could "cut through" his "impenetrable" border fencing? I do.

Circling back to our earlier coverage, this seems like a good time to pause and take stock. Trump wants Americans to believe he's built hundreds of miles of impenetrable wall that cannot be climbed or penetrated. In reality, it's not a wall; it's not hundreds of miles; it can be climbed; it's quite penetrable, and in one instance, it failed to withstand wind gusts of 37 miles per hour.

Construction is ongoing, possibly in violation of state and local public health guidelines; Trump found the money through legally dubious raids on the federal budget; and the money is going out by way of controversial contracts.

It's quite a project, isn't it?