President Donald Trump has pledged that his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border will begin construction soon and ahead of current estimates. An internal memo within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has projected construction of the wall to take at least three years.
On Feb. 24, Trump spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland. During his remarks, the president asserted that the U.S. government had failed to protect its borders, prompting the audience to chant the campaign refrain of “Build the wall.”
“Oh, we’re going to build a wall, don’t worry about it,” Trump told the audience, according to Politico. “We’re building the wall. In fact, it’s going to start soon. Way ahead of schedule… It’s going to start very soon.”
Constructing a southern border wall had arguably been the centerpiece of Trump’s presidential campaign. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has repeatedly maintained that his country will not pay for the wall meaning that the Trump administration will otherwise have to fund construction through a budget approved by Congress.
On Feb. 10, an internal memo from the DHS estimated that constructing the wall along the 654 miles spanning the southern border would take over three years, with three gradual phases that would at earliest be completed by 2020, Reuters reports.
The DHS also estimated that the cost would be $21.6 billion, a higher figure than the $12 billion estimate that the Trump campaign had offered during the 2016 presidential race.
On Feb. 2, DHS Secretary John Kelly had given a shorter timetable, although he echoed the memo’s call for three phases of construction.
“The wall will be built where it’s needed first, and then it will be filled in,” Kelly told Fox News. “I really hope to have it done within the next two years.”
On Feb. 22, former senior homeland security official Seth Stodder asserted that the Trump administration had not made much progress on the proposed wall.
“He hasn’t made any progress other than to say ‘we’re going to do it,’” Stodder told The Guardian. “They’re pretty far away. I don’t think they’ve made much progress.”
Pointing to the internal DHS estimates, Stodder added “I have no confidence Congress will authorize $20 billion to build a wall across the U.S. given the current budgetary environment.”