Smuggling gangs in Mexico are reportedly using power tools to cut large holes in walls at the southern US-Mexico border, according to a new report from The Washington Post.
The steel-and-concrete portions of the walls, which President Donald Trump has touted as the solution to the flow of undocumented immigrants coming across the US-Mexico border, can be sawed apart with at least one commercially available cordless tool that retails for less than $100, according to the Post, which cites US border officials with knowledge of the damage.
In addition to cutting through the walls, officials told the Post that smugglers have also repeatedly scaled and climbed over the walls with makeshift ladders, particularly in areas near San Diego.
The report comes as the first and most detailed description of such breaches and says that the lack of government reporting means it is unclear how many times they have occurred. US Customs and Border Protection reportedly declined to provide further information about the number of wall breaches to the Post and had not yet fulfilled a Freedom of Information Act request seeking such data at the time of the report.
One factor of deterrent is electronic sensors that are yet to be added but could sense where and when the wall was damaged, triggering repairs. However, one former border chief said smugglers would likely eventually find a way around those as well.
The wall has been a costly and politically tense issue between lawmakers and Trump, after the president previously enacted what became the longest shutdown in government history when he did not relent in debates with lawmakers through December 2018 on his request for $5 billion to be allocated for the wall.
Despite the president’s repeated pushes for the wall, environmental and immigration experts have expressed doubts about its possible effects on nearby areas and its overall efficacy. CBP officials were vocal during Trump’s weighing of different designs that a solid concrete wall wouldn’t be beneficial to agents who ideally would be able to see through to the other side.
According to the Post’s report, smugglers are exploiting the “bollard” style design that the administration eventually settled on, which has been described as part of a “border wall system” as agents insisted a wall alone couldn’t safeguard the border.
NBC News reported in January 2019 that a test of a steel bollard wall in Trump’s chosen design by the Department of Homeland Security showed the wall could be sawed through.
Photos of the breaches were not included in a redacted version of an internal February 2018 US Customs and Border Protection report that mentioned the faults, NBC reported, and Trump denied the validity of the photos, saying it was “a wall designed by previous administrations,” though the one in question was made under his administration.