Documents marked ‘do not publish’ reveal details of US-Mexico border wall
Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and published by The Texas Observer show plans to build 33 miles of wall in 15 segments. Many are marked “Do not publish under FOIA.”
The wall is slated to cut through three wildlife preserves, including the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, and the National Butterfly Center, which announced in October that would sue the federal government to stop construction.
A 2.24-mile (3.6km) section of wall would impact a church and cemetery, as well as numerous homes. Another section of the wall would bisect an RV park, impacting “upwards of 100 homeowners,” according to the document.
“Nice RV park, many retirees live there permanently,” the document’s notes read.
One document reveals the rating system the Army Corps of Engineers used to determine the difficulty of building each segment. Criteria were based off of the topography and legal barriers to procuring control of the land. The wildlife preserves and residential areas are marked as “most challenging.”
The wall through the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge is part of a pilot project and is marked “easy” because the land is already owned by the federal government. The refuge is home to at least 400 bird species and 450 plant species, including the Texas Sabal Palm and an endangered ocelot.
“With this type of construction it would be difficult for Santa Ana to stay open,” Scott Nicol, co-chair of the Sierra Club’s borderlands team, told the Observer.
The documents also reveal the design for the wall, showing a concrete base topped by an 18-foot (5.5m) steel bollard fence. The Santa Ana segment is projected to cost $45 million and is projected to be built by July 2019.
The Santa Ana portion of the wall also includes a cleared 150-foot (4.5m) “enforcement zone” that would run south of the levee wall. This enforcement zone would include include an all-weather road coupled with underground fiber-optic motion sensors.
Concerns that some Americans would be trapped on the Mexican side of the wall prompted the Texas Civil Rights Project to start collecting the names of such individuals in April 2017. They would be technically be left on American soil, but outside the border wall that would separate the US from Mexico.
President Donald Trump has pledged to make good on his campaign promise to build a wall along the US-Mexico border, claiming that Mexico will pay for its construction. Trump has yet to enact policies that would get Mexico to pay for the wall through import tariffs or other means, as the president previously suggested.
“I regret and condemn the decision of the United States to continue construction of a wall that, for years, has divided us instead of uniting us,” Nieto said in a televised message in January.
The dispute led Trump and Nieto to cancel a meeting scheduled for January. When they met in June, the border wall was reportedly not a topic of discussion.
In April, then-secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, John Kelly, endorsed the border wall but said it would not be realistic to have it cover the entirety of the US-Mexico border.
“It is unlikely we’ll build a physical barrier from sea to shining sea,” he told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, adding that “physical barriers do work if they’re put in the right place.”
Congress approved $1.6 billion in July 2017 for building new and fortifying existing border barriers, allocating $428 million for the Rio Grande area.