President Donald Trump promised to build a "big, beautiful" wall, but the description of the project's first major steps by a border official framed it more as a fixer.
US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Ronald Vitello told reporters at a Friday press conference that the government's 2018 congressional appropriations – about $ 1.6 billion – will go into creating or exchanging about 100 miles of wall structures along the southern border US would put.
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But Vitello declined to specify exactly how much of it would work to create new barriers in previously uncovered areas as opposed to improving existing border structures.
"It's a mix," said the customs official. To distinguish between new wall structures and improvements, Vitello argued that the distinction is contentious.
"I would say it's all new because it has a different design, it replaces things that are inappropriate," he said. "I would call it a new one, replacing what exists."
Vitello said the newly created boundary wall systems would "provide a comprehensive solution to obstructing wall, lighting, enforcement cameras and other related technologies, as well as all-weather roads and refusal of illegal border crossings offers activity. "
Newly-introduced border improvements include 14 miles of bollard wall replacing San Diego's steel landing mats, as well as 14 miles for replacement of a second barrier, two miles of a 30-foot boundary wall that will become the site replacing an existing pedestrian barrier in Calexico, California, the addition of gates to an existing 35-mile boundary wall and a 25-mile dam wall to be constructed in Hidalgo County, Texas.
The agency said it will replace some 47 miles of border fences with new barrier systems using cameras and other tools.
According to Vitello, the authorities are expected to ground the ground in April for a project to replace 20 miles of boundary wall systems in Santa Teresa, New Mexico.
Customs and Border Patrol said that there are currently 654 miles of existing structures along the border, but they would like to expand it to about 1,000 miles. According to Vitello, this goal could be achieved if Trump receives the $ 25 billion he requested for the project in January.
In its 2018 bundled funds, Congress granted $ 1.6 billion to the government's efforts to improve border security. "We got $ 1.6 billion to build the wall on the southern border, the recovery is imminent," tweeted the president last week.
Vitello praised Congress for allocating funds for the project, saying that the amount "does not fully fund our needs in the most critical locations".
The official praised Trump's efforts to tighten security along the southern US border, supporting the president's support for the project as crucial to funding the projects through Congress.
"Let me make it clear that without the leadership of the President and the Government and the commitment to border security, funding for the construction of these projects would not be possible," Vitello said.