Trump ramps up border-wall construction ahead of 2020 vote

The president’s barrier is one of the largest federal infrastructure projects in the nation’s history. Here’s what his administration has built so far and where it plans to build next.

The southern U.S. border has about 650 miles of barriers that take a variety of forms. In more-urban areas, tall “pedestrian” fences are in place to stop people from crossing. In remote areas, the government uses “vehicle barriers” made from old railroad tracks. In mountainous areas and long stretches that follow the Rio Grande, there is no man-made structure.

Fence type:

Pedestrian

Vehicle

No barrier

CA

AZ

N.M.

TX

Tucson

San Diego

El Paso

Laredo

MEXICO

250 mi.

Fence type:

Pedestrian

Vehicle

No barrier

CALIF.

ARIZ.

N.M.

TEXAS

Tucson

San Diego

El Paso

Laredo

MEXICO

250 mi.

Fence type:

Pedestrian

Vehicle

No barrier

CALIF.

ARIZ.

N.M.

TEXAS

El Centro

Tucson

San Diego

El Paso

Yuma

Gulf of

Mexico

Pacific

Ocean

Laredo

McAllen

MEXICO

250 MILES

Fence type:

Pedestrian

Vehicle

No barrier

CALIF.

ARIZ.

N.M.

TEXAS

El Centro

Tucson

El Paso

San Diego

Pacific

Ocean

Gulf of

Mexico

Laredo

McAllen

MEXICO

250 MILES

Fence type:

Pedestrian

Vehicle

No barrier

CALIF.

ARIZ.

N.M.

TEXAS

Tucson

El Centro

El Paso

San Diego

Yuma

Pacific

Ocean

Gulf of

Mexico

Laredo

McAllen

MEXICO

250 MILES

The Washington Post has obtained detailed U.S. government data about Trump’s border-wall project, its construction progress and contracts for each segment of the structure. The data shows the Trump administration is far from delivering on the president’s promise to finish more than 500 miles of new barriers by early next year. Though Trump had insisted Mexico would pay for the project, it has been funded entirely by the U.S. government, at costs that reach nearly $30 million per mile in southern Texas.

[Smugglers are sawing through new sections of Trump’s border wall]

The Trump administration is installing a structure far more formidable than anything previously in place along the border. The new structure has steel bollards, anchored in concrete, that reach 18 to 30 feet in height and will have lighting, cameras, sensors and improved roads to allow U.S. agents to respond quickly along an expanded “enforcement zone.”

Government contractors erect a 30-foot-high section of new Pentagon-funded border wall along the Colorado River in September in Yuma, Ariz. (Matt York/AP)

The San Diego sector of the border wall in April 2018. (Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post)

Vehicle barriers across a riverbed along the border in early January near Hereford, Ariz. (Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post)

Nearly all of the new fencing the Trump administration has built so far is considered “replacement” fencing, swapping out smaller, older vehicle barriers for a more elaborate — and costly — “border wall system.”

The administration has been slower to build new barriers where none currently exist, primarily because those spans require the acquisition of private land. Even with the slated construction goals, most of the southern border will not have a man-made barrier.

Pre-construction status of the southern border

Existing barrier: 654 miles

Barrier to remain

221 miles

Barrier to be replaced

133 miles

Vehicle barrier to be converted

300 miles

No barrier: 1,300 miles

Priority area for new construction

864 miles

Non-priority area. Mostly mountains

436 miles

U.S. - Mexico border

1,954 miles

Existing barrier: 654 miles

Barrier to remain

221 miles

Barrier to be replaced

133 miles

Vehicle barrier to be converted

300 miles

No barrier: 1,300 miles

Priority area for new construction

864 miles

Non-priority area. Mostly mountains

436 miles

U.S. - Mexico border

1,954 miles

Existing barrier

No barrier

654 miles

1,300 miles

Vehicle

barrier

to be

converted

Barrier

to

remain

Barrier

to be

replaced

Non-priority area

Mostly mountains

Priority area

for new construction

221

miles

133

miles

300

miles

864

miles

436

miles

U.S.-Mexico border, 1,954 miles

Existing barrier

No barrier

654 miles

1,300 miles

Vehicle

barrier

to be

converted

Barrier

to be

replaced

Barrier

to remain

Non-priority area

Mostly mountains

Priority area

for new construction

221

miles

133

miles

300

miles

864

miles

436

miles

U.S.-Mexico border, 1,954 miles

Existing barrier

No barrier

654 miles

1,300 miles

Vehicle

barrier

to be converted

Barrier to

be replaced

Barrier

to remain

Non-priority area

Mostly mountains

Priority area

for new construction

864 miles

221 miles

133 miles

300 miles

436 miles

U.S.-Mexico border, 1,954 miles

Trump has promised to build at least 500 miles of new fencing by early next year, and his administration has completed about 110 miles so far. To meet the president’s targets, crews will need to add about 30 linear miles of barrier per month throughout 2020, more than double the current pace of construction.

Administration goal by the end of 2020

450 miles of new or converted barrier

Overall goal

509 miles

Complete

110 miles

Under construction

192 miles

U.S.-Mexico border, 1,954 miles

Data as of Jan. 23

Administration goal by the end of 2020

450 miles of new or converted barrier

Overall goal

509 miles

Complete

110 miles

Under construction

192 miles

U.S.-Mexico border, 1,954 miles

Data as of Jan. 23

Administration goal by the end of 2020

450 miles of new or converted barrier

Overall goal

(targeted for Aug. 2021)

509 miles of new or

converted barrier

Complete, 110 miles

Under construction, 192 miles

U.S.-Mexico border, 1,954 miles

Data as of Jan. 23

Administration goal by the end of 2020

450 miles of new or converted barrier

Overall Administration goal

(targeted for Aug. 2021)

509 miles of new or converted barrier

Complete, 110 miles

Under construction, 192 miles

U.S.-Mexico border, 1,954 miles

Data as of Jan. 23

Administration goal by the end of 2020

450 miles of new or converted barrier

Overall goal (targeted for Aug. 2021)

509 miles of new or converted barrier

Complete, 110 miles

Under construction, 192 miles

U.S.-Mexico border, 1,954 miles

Data as of Jan. 23

Border-wall status reports obtained by The Post detail how much new construction the administration expects each month to finish 509 miles of new barrier by August 2021.

With the pace of construction lagging behind Trump’s targets, Department of Homeland Security officials have tried to lower expectations, saying they will have 450 miles completed or “under construction” by the end of the year.

Expected vs. actual construction progress

Administration goal: 509 miles of barrier

450 miles expected

by the end of 2020

500 miles

250

110 miles

completed

as of Jan. 23

0

‘19

‘20

‘21

Aug.

‘21

Data as of Jan. 23

Administration goal: 509 miles of barrier

450 miles expected

by the end of 2020

500 miles

250

110 miles completed

as of Jan. 23

0

2019

2020

2021

Aug.

2021

Data as of Jan. 23

Administration goal:

509 miles of barrier

500

miles

The construction of 450 miles

is expected by the end of 2020

400

300

200

138 miles expected

110 miles completed

as of Jan. 23

100

0

2019

2020

2021

Aug. 2021

Data as of Jan. 23

Administration goal:

509 miles of barrier

500

miles

The construction of 450 miles

is expected by the end of 2020

400

300

200

138 miles expected

110 miles completed

as of Jan. 23

100

0

2019

2020

2021

Aug. 2021

Data as of Jan. 23

Administration goal:

509 miles of barrier

500

miles

The construction of 450 miles

is expected by the end of 2020

400

300

200

138 miles expected

110 miles completed

as of Jan. 23

100

0

2019

2020

2021

Aug. 2021

Data as of Jan. 23

The Trump administration faces legal and physical challenges to hit its construction targets in Texas, where the Rio Grande forms a natural barrier along hundreds of miles of border.

Unlike in western states, where much of the land already is under government control, there are hundreds of riverfront farms, ranches and other properties in private hands in Texas. Some lack clear ownership records; others are held by multiple heirs. The government plans to make aggressive use of its eminent-domain powers to acquire them, but the process is slow and requires potentially lengthy legal actions.

In many cases, people are unwilling to hand their land over to the government or allow its use for the construction of border barriers, in part because it could split plots and restrict land use, block river access, affect scenic views or reduce land values. Some have vowed to fight.

Construction on public vs. private land

24% built

7% built

Private land

208 miles

Federal land

302 miles

U.S.-Mexico border, 1,954 miles

Data as of Nov. 14

24% built

7% built

Private land

208 miles

Federal land

302 miles

U.S.-Mexico border, 1,954 miles

Data as of Nov. 14

24% built

7% built

302 miles planned for

federal land

208 miles planned for

private land

U.S.-Mexico border, 1,954 miles

Data as of Nov. 14

24% built

7% built

302 miles planned for federal land

208 miles planned for private land

U.S.-Mexico border, 1,954 miles

Data as of Nov. 14

24% built

7% built

302 miles planned for federal land

208 miles planned for private land

U.S.-Mexico border, 1,954 miles

Data as of Nov. 14

Budget and spending

The White House is planning to divert an additional $7.2 billion from this year’s military budget, bringing the total amount of money available for the project to $18.4 billion, enough to complete nearly 900 miles of new barriers by 2022. Of that, just $5.1 billion has been authorized by lawmakers. The rest is coming from Defense Department funding, primarily through the Pentagon’s counternarcotics accounts and military construction budgets.

Legal challenges to Trump’s authority to spend money that Congress originally authorized for other purposes have at times temporarily blocked this White House tactic, but courts have sided with the administration.

Sources of funding

Each represents $1 million
Department of Homeland Security
DHS
Routine appropiation
$5.1 billion
Defense Department
Defense Dept.
National emergency funding
$3.6 billion
$3.7 billion planned additional funding
$3.7 billion planned additional funding