The past week in U.S. border security
- The official Request for Proposals for U.S.-Mexico border wall designs is now up at the federal government contracting website. My favorite of the 12 requirements: “The north side of wall (i.e. U.S. facing side) shall be aesthetically pleasing in color, anti-climb texture, etc., to be consistent with general surrounding environment. The manufacturing/construction process should facilitate changes in color and texture pursuant to site specific requirements.”
- Mexican government officials are warning Mexican companies that they will suffer reputational damage if they seek to bid for wall-building contracts. “There won’t be a law with sanctions, but Mexicans and Mexican consumers will know how to value those companies that are loyal to our national identity and those that are not,” Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said. Mexican cement-making giant Cemex, which initially expressed interest, is backing out.
- Republican congressional leaders are balking at the wall’s cost. They want more details before considering the Trump administration’s initial funding request of $1.5 billion for 2017 and $2.6 billion for 2018. Reps. Martha McSally (R-Arizona) and Will Hurd (R-Texas) sent a list of questions about the wall and other border-security issues to the Homeland Security Department and the White House Office of Management and Budget. McSally and Hurd, the chair and vice-chair of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, represent districts comprising nearly half the U.S.-Mexico border. Both districts were recently held by Democrats.
- At a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, the president of the Border Patrol’s union repeated his view that it is not necessary to build a wall along the entire length of the U.S.-Mexico border. Brandon Judd said that fencing is only necessary in “strategic locations.”
- Judd repeated [PDF] the union’s call for an additional 5,000 agents to be added to the force, which currently numbers just under 20,000. (This 5,000 figure appears in one of the Trump White House executive orders [PDF].) In order to step up hiring, Judd demanded CBP do something about its “polygraph problem” for new applicants, contending that lie detector tests for prospective agents are currently disqualifying 70 percent of them.
- “How border communities are dealing with the prospect of a wall” has become a genre of news story. This week ABC News covered Cochise County, Arizona, National Review covered Big Bend National Park, and the Austin American-Statesman looked at Texas’s Falcon Lake reservoir.
- Quartz looks at available data to determine the extent to which the past few years’ border crackdowns have increased the fees that smugglers are charging migrants. The conclusion is yes, probably, but it’s complicated.
- The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals plans to hear the case of Border Patrol Agent Lonnie Swartz, who in 2012 fired his gun through the border wall into downtown Nogales, Arizona, killing Mexican 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez. Swartz says he did so in self-defense because Elena was throwing rocks. For some reason, border cameras’ video of the incident only exists as highly compressed, poor-quality files: the originals were “lost or destroyed.” Agent Swartz’s lawyers are trying to throw out that piece of evidence.