Test for Trump’s steel border wall prototype 'proves it can be sawed through'

US officials are defending the feeble border wall prototypes by claiming that it is intended to be destructible

A barbed wire border wall in Tijuana, Mexico
A barbed wire border wall in Tijuana, Mexico

Donald Trump has repeatedly advocated for a steel slat barrier at the US-Mexico border, calling it “absolutely critical" to national security. However, it may not be as secure as the president thinks.

Testing of a steel slat prototype by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) demonstrated that it could be cut through with a saw, according to a report by the agency.

On Thursday, NBC News released photos they obtained showing the result of a test after the US military and Border Patrol personnel were told to attempt to destroy the wall with common tools.

There are eight steel and concrete prototype walls built in Otay Mesa, California, just a short distance from the border near Tijuana, Mexico. After inspecting the prototypes in March 2018, Mr Trump chose a steel slat—or steel bollard—as the material for his proposed border wall.

In late 2017,DHS testing proved that all eight of the Trump administration’s prototypes, including his favourite steel slates, are vulnerable to breaching, according to an internal February 2018 report from US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

“The steel bollard construction is based on the operational requirements of the United States Border Patrol and is a design that has been honed over more than a decade of use,” DHS spokeswoman Katie Waldman said in a statement. “It is an important part of Border Patrol’s impedance and denial capability.”

Ms Waldman added that the steel bollard design is “internally reinforced with materials that require time and multiple industrial tools to breach, thereby providing US Border Patrol agents additional response time to affect a successful law enforcement resolution”

She also said the steel bollard design, compared to other prototypes, is quick and cost-effective to repair.

The agency spokeswoman defended the prototype by insisting: “The professionals on the border know that a wall system is intended not only to prevent entry, it is intended to defer and to increase the amount of time and effort it takes for one to enter so that we can respond with limited border patrol agents.”

Ralph DeSio, a CBP spokesman, told San Diego's KPBS the prototypes “were not and cannot be designed to be indestructible,” but were designed to “impede or deny efforts to scale, breach, or dig under such a barrier, giving agents time to respond.”

Mr Trump also defended his steel border fence design in his national address on Tuesday by claiming it “is what our professionals at the border want and need. This is just common sense.”

Mississippi Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said there is “nothing special” about Mr Trump’s border wall design.

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“President Trump likes to pretend a wall will solve all our problems, but it’s been clear for some time that it is little more than a very expensive vanity project,” Mr Thompson told NBC News. “Whether steel or concrete, there is nothing special about his wall and it will not secure our borders. Democrats are willing to work with the administration to improve our border security, but let’s get back to proven and effective solutions.”

The president, who had campaigned on a promise of building the wall and making Mexico pay for it, is demanding $5.7 billion from the US Congress for the construction of 234 miles of the steel barrier. The US is currently in the 20th day of a government shutdown, which started after Democrats refused to sanction that spending.

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