SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — President Donald Trump spoke Tuesday about the U.S.-Mexico border as his battle with Democratic lawmakers over border wall funding sends a government shutdown into nearly three weeks.
President Trump is scheduled to meet with those working at the border in what the White House has called a "crisis" at the southern border.
As Democratic lawmakers continue to flatly reject any funding for the President's border wall, Trump says he has considered declaring an "immigration emergency" in order to lock in funding.
TODAY'S BORDER BARRIER
About 653 miles of the 2,000 miles across the U.S.-Mexico border has fencing or barrier, according to the Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has already set aside about $1.4 billion to fund construction of new and replacement barriers along the border, Newsy reports. These projects are scheduled for the San Diego, Tucson, El Paso, and Yuma border areas.
That money is expected to go toward upgrades in fencing and levee barrier in the Rio Grande Valley, where the Rio Grande forms a natural barrier between the two countries.
Construction already approved by Congress prior to President Trump has already begun on outdated portions of the border barrier.
Nearly two and a half miles of metal scrap and landing mat used as a barrier was upgraded to 30-foot high, steel bollard fencing in Calexico in March of last year. This year, construction on secondary wall and primary pedestrian replacement wall is scheduled for San Diego's border.
It's not clear whether the President's border wall prototypes in Otay Mesa will be implemented, as Congress has yet to approve any funding for the project. Many of those prototypes included concrete. The White House now says they are favoring steel as barrier material.
BORDER SECURITY TODAY
Border Patrol San Diego Sector Chief Rodney Scott took 10News anchor Steve Atkinson on a tour of a portion of the region's border last week, showing what works and doesn't work for agents.
Scott pointed to newly constructed steel bollard border barrier that will eventually be 14 miles long and 18 high on average, even taller in other areas. The upgrades are significant, Scott said, considering the ease individuals had in cutting through older fencing.
"On average there's 3 and a half breaches in this per day," said Scott, indicating patches in the fence that have been previously sawed through. "To jump the legacy landing mat fence, run up and start a cut in this fence big enough that you can actually get people through, is less than 2 minutes total time."
Scott says the improvements are even more vital, following the attack on Border Patrol agents on New Year's Day, where people were throwing rocks at agents from over the border.
"On January 1 the people throwing rocks were up on top of that berm," said Scott, confirming one of his agents was hit in the face with a rock. “But he had a riot helmet and shield on, so he wasn't seriously injured."
Scott said his agents had to use tear gas after rocks were thrown from Mexico and claimed assaults on his agents are up 300 percent this fiscal year.
The White House has said nearly 4,000 "known or suspected terrorists" were caught trying to enter the US to justify their argument for a border wall. However, according to CBP data, only 12 of those individuals were encountered at the southern border from October 2017 to October 2018, according to CNN.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said earlier this month CBP has stopped over 3,000 "special interest aliens trying to come into the country on the southern border."
However, there's no uniform definition of the term "special interest alien." Former Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly defined "special interest" as being "from parts of the world where terrorism is prevalent, or nations that are hostile to the United States," CNN reported.