Smugglers from Mexico are reportedly sawing holes through sections of President Trump’s new border wall according to The Washington Post, who spoke with U.S. agents and officials who have knowledge of the damage caused.
After promising that Mexico would pay for the wall along the United State's southern border, President Donald Trump ended up declaring a national emergency to redirect $3.6 billion from military construction projects. A further $601 million has been redirected from the Treasury Department’s forfeiture fund, while the Pentagon provided a further $2.5 billion from other priorities.
The declaration came after President Trump was unable to secure $13.3 billion from Congress.
On a visit to San Diego in September President Donald Trump announced that the wall would be “virtually impenetrable.”
“We have, I guess you could say, world-class mountain climbers. We got climbers,” Trump told the media. “We had 20 mountain climbers. That’s all they do—they love to climb mountains. They can have it. Me, I don’t want to climb mountains. But they’re very good, and some of them were champions. And we gave them different prototypes of walls, and this was the one that was hardest to climb.”
But according to the Post, smugglers are breaching newly erected segments of the wall with a reciprocating saw that can be picked up at most hardware stores for as little as $100. When fitted with stronger blades, the agents say that the criminals can cut through the wall's steel-and-concrete bollards in minutes.
After cutting through the base of a single bollard, the smugglers then push the steel bollard out of the way, creating an adult-sized hole. Because the bollards are so tall, in an attempt to make the wall more difficult to climb, it becomes easier to push them aside when they are cut and left dangling according to engineers that the Post consulted.
According to the officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the breaches, smugglers have also been using more traditional methods, such as makeshift ladders.
The U.S. government has not yet disclosed the breaches, so it's hard to know how many times it's happened.
Matt Leas, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) declined to comment and a Freedom of Information request is yet to be fulfilled.
But one senior administration official, who again wanted to remain anonymous, said there had only been “a few instances” and the new wall “significantly increased security and deterrence.”
Current and former CBP officials confirmed the breaches to the Post but added that the new bollard system is superior to the previous design. Some of the breaches happened in areas where electronic sensors that would detect the vibrations of a saw blade had not yet been fitted.
NBC News reported in January 2019 that the Department of Homeland Security had found the wall could be sawed through, with the agents the Post spoke to insisting a wall alone couldn't safeguard the border.
The administration had said that the main advantage of the new bollard system is that they can easily be replaced once damaged. They want to supplement the wall with surveillance technology and the rapid deployment of agents to attempted breaches.
Asked on Saturday if he was worried about the reports, President Donald Trump said:
“I haven’t heard that. We have a very powerful wall. But no matter how powerful, you can cut through anything, in all fairness. But we have a lot of people watching. You know cutting, cutting is one thing, but it’s easily fixed. One of the reasons we did it the way we did it, it’s very easily fixed. You put the chunk back in.”