The Defense Department has started the process of identifying sites for new physical barriers along the US-Mexico border. Teams consisting of approximately 10 experts and engineers are scouting areas in Arizona and New Mexico, performing assessments lasting about seven days each, a step forward for the plan to install an additional 57 miles of fencing.
The new stretches of fencing will be near Yuma, Arizona and in the New Mexico portion of the El Paso sector, a region that also includes Texas.
Two department officials initially confirmed the scouting activities, according to a report by CNN, as well as US Army Corps of Engineers spokesperson Jay Field.
The initial assessments are expected to take around seven days each, and building contracts are planned to be awarded in mid-April. By late April, formal engineering surveys are expected to commence.
Actual construction efforts could start by late May, suggesting that environmental waivers are issued by the Department of Homeland Security to expedite the process. The Pentagon recently transferred $1 billion in funds to pay for the projects.
Scouting began soon after the Pentagon informed Congress that it had authorized the transfer of the funds. The plan is to install 11 miles of border fencing in Yuma and an additional 46 miles in the El Paso sector. Road improvements and other development measures along the southwest border are also going to take place.
The US Army Corps of Engineers was officially allowed to start the planning and construction process as of Monday night. Funds will support 18-foot-high segments of border fencing along the Yuma and El Paso regions along the border.
In February, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency as a means of funneling billions of dollars to support the construction of the border wall. During his announcement, he directed that counterdrug monies be used to partially fund the project. He also stated that other funds could be used, including those previously allocated for military-related construction.
Trump renewed his dedication to the project this week, posting a tweet on Thursday, which read: “We have a National Emergency at our Southern Border. The Dems refuse to do what they know is necessary – amend our immigration laws. Would immediately solve the problem! Mexico, with the strongest immigration laws in the World, refuses to help with illegal immigration & drugs!”
Trump’s national emergency declaration has been the target of lawsuits, and has also been subjected to pushback by some Democrats and Republicans.
Initially, bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate rejected the national emergency, pushing forward a resolution to terminate it. Trump issued his first veto, keeping the national emergency in place.
On Tuesday, the House attempted to override Trump’s recent veto, but failed to secure the necessary votes.