Mexican smugglers have cut through multiple sections of border wall designed to bar their entry into the United States.
Gaps large enough to smuggle people and drugs across the U.S.-Mexican border can be cut with simple store-bought tools available for as little as $100, undermining the effectiveness of a wall that has already cost $10 billion, according to the Washington Post. The breaches have reportedly targeted sections of wall blocking lucrative cartel trade routes to San Diego, California.
Unnamed border officials told Washington Post reporters a handheld reciprocating saw, fitted with a special blade, can cut through one of the wall’s steel bollard poles in a matter of minutes. The bollards, which remain attached to a panel at the top of the wall, can be pushed aside once cut, allowing a gap smugglers can then exploit.
The relatively cheap effort to cut the steel and concrete bollard poles is one of several techniques Mexican smugglers have reportedly used to overcome the wall. Other methods of bypassing the barrier have included simple ladders allowing border crossers to simply climb over the top.
In February Trump issued an executive order diverting $6.5 billion in Pentagon funds to facilitate border wall construction. Despite legal challenges to Trump’s order, the Pentagon has assigned funding to construct new wall sections in recent months.
Official U.S. government sources have not disclosed the breaches to the border wall or identified how many breaches may have occurred. Cartel members have reportedly used a putty like substance to cover the severed bollard poles, so as to conceal the breach while allowing them to return later to exploit the gap.
One of the unnamed officials told Washington Post reporters the number of breaches had been no more than “a few instances” and said the wall has increased security for the border and acted as a deterrence to crossing attempts.
Other officials reportedly said that while breaches may occur, the bollard system remains more effective than previous border security measures. Those officials said one advantage of the bollard system is that it is easy to repair damaged wall panels.
The breaches may have also occurred in sections of wall that are still under construction and which crews have not yet installed electronic sensors designed to detect breaching attempts.
Ronald Vitiello ― a former U.S. Border Patrol chief who served as an acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement until April ― suggested the breaches are a “poking and prodding” effort by cartels to overcome the wall, which represents a barrier to their illicit trade.
“The cartels will continue to innovate, and they’re not just going to leave San Diego because the wall gets better,” Vitiello told the Washington Post.
Vitiello, who oversaw efforts to develop border wall prototypes, said the bollard walls could be improved upon if Democrats lent support for the wall.
“The bollards are not the most evolved design; they are the most evolved that we could pay for,” he said. “We never said they would be an end-all, be-all.”
The border wall has been a notable part of President Donald Trump’s border and immigration policy and calls to build the wall became a rallying cry to supporters of his 2016 presidential campaign. The Trump administration has reportedly completed 76 miles of new wall, replacing old barriers and dilapidated fencing.