The United States Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) have awarded $312 million in contracts this month to Galveston-based construction company SLSCO for levee wall construction in the Rio Grande Valley sector. Funded by CBP’s appropriations for fiscal year 2018, approximately 14 miles will be constructed. The border wall will span the southern area of Hidalgo County, encompassing towns such as: Alamo, Donna, McAllen, Mercedes, Progreso, and Weslaco.

The project consists of tactical infrastructure equipped with detection technology, lighting, video surveillance, and an all-weather patrol road parallel to the border wall. As CBP RGV Chief Manuel Padilla stated in a Texas Scorecard interview, he refers the RGV as the “Last Stand.” He further stated, “The wall is coming and we’re planning for it.”

According to a CBP news release on Wednesday:

“The RGV Sector remains an area of high illegal cross border activity. In FY 2017, USBP apprehended over 137,000 illegal aliens, and seized approximately 260,000 pounds of marijuana and approximately 1,192 pounds of cocaine in the RGV Sector. Once constructed, this levee wall system will serve as a persistent impediment to transnational criminal organizations, while still allowing river access for property owners, other federal/state/local officials, local emergency responders, and USBP. CBP continues to implement President Trump’s Executive Order 13767 — also known as Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements — and continues to take steps to expeditiously plan, design, and construct a physical wall using appropriate materials and technology to most effectively achieve operational control of the southern border.”

Recent headlines have focused on a caravan of Central American immigrants approaching the United States, causing destruction for our neighbors to the south. In response, President Trump ordered an estimated 5,900 military troops to the southern border to assist. On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Defense General Jim Mattis, visited the RGV to discredit media distortions about the troops’ mission. Mattis described the operation as a “moral and ethical mission to support our border patrolmen,” and encouraged troops to not be dissuaded.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, GOP legislators are in discussions with President Trump over border security funding. Trump has demanded $5 billion in border wall funding for the next fiscal year, but last year only $1.6 billion was allocated. Under political pressure, Trump resisted shutting down the government on October 1 amidst midterm elections, as Republican leaders feared it would hurt the outcome.

Two weeks after elections, GOP leaders are once again attempting to avert a government shutdown; however, Trump has yet to make any promises. “I’ll have to see how it plays out. But I may very well be willing to shut down the government,” Trump said.

Congress has until December 7 to approve the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget. With or without federal funding, border wall construction for the RGV is expected to begin February 2019.

Miriam Cepeda

Miriam Cepeda is the Rio Grande Valley Bureau Chief for Texas Scorecard. A second-generation Mexican American, she is both fluent in English and Spanish and has been influential in grassroots organizing and conservative engagement within Hispanic communities. If you don’t find her “Trumping”, you can find her saving animals, running her dog, hiking the Andes, or volunteering with the U.S. National Park Service.