Construction is under way for a replacement project first proposed by U.S. Border Patrol in 2009
Alicia A. Caldwell
CALEXICO, Calif.—Along a dusty stretch of border, flanked by an outlet mall and farmland, a giant crane hoisted a 30-foot-high section of steel barrier and dropped it into a shallow trench last Wednesday.
The structure was one of the first new pieces of a border wall put in place since the start of a lengthy construction project in February just west of the border crossing in downtown Calexico, a small, mostly Hispanic farming town.
The construction isn’t part of President Donald Trump’s long-promised wall with Mexico. Instead, the barrier is a replacement project first proposed by the U.S. Border Patrol in 2009 under the Obama administration, roughly a decade after the original fencing went up, according to David Kim, the Border Patrol’s assistant chief patrol agent in the area.
By mid-October, roughly 2 miles in the Border Patrol’s El Centro sector, which stretches for about half of the Mexican border in California, will have the new, see-through barrier.
Mr. Kim said the roughly $18 million project was funded by Congress last year. He said the project happens to be getting under way in the midst of Mr. Trump’s continuing effort to build a wall along the Mexican border. “We want to make sure everyone knows what it is and what it isn’t,” Mr. Kim said.
While Mr. Trump’s border-wall plan has drawn scorn from immigration advocates, environmentalists and some lawmakers, Enrique Morones, founder and director of the San Diego-based Border Angels, a nonprofit immigrant aid group, said the replacement fencing was little to worry about, since it was only replacing a barrier that was already there.
Lawmakers have yet to fund Mr. Trump’s multibillion-dollar wall proposal, instead approving money primarily for repairs and replacement projects of existing barriers such as the one in Calexico, about 120 miles east of San Diego.
In New Mexico, existing vehicle barriers along the border will soon be replaced by new fencing in and around Santa Teresa, near the Texas state line.
California has become a flashpoint in the debate over the president’s immigration policies, including his proposal to build a wall. The state has sued the administration multiple times challenging its immigration policies.