Max Rivlin-Nadler for NPR
The highly prized prototypes of President Trump's San Diego-Tijuana border wall were largely demolished on Wednesday morning to make room for a secondary fence replacement barrier based on older designs.
US Customs and Border Protection has provided $ 5 million for the construction of eight steel and concrete models a few meters from the Tijuana border in Mexico in 2017. Journalists from around the world have broadcast photos of the imposing prototypes. At the time, border officials said that the wall segments represented "the next generation" of barriers resistant to scaling, penetration and tunnels.
Critics have described the expensive militarist political theater as giving pleasure to supporters of the president who build the wall.
"The prototypes were used as a tool, they used them for different attributes," Border Patrol Officer Vincent Pirro told the demolished fence. "They looked at the pros and cons of the prototypes and put them in a toolbox, and that's what they'll use for future wall projects."
A team of military and CBP specialists tested each wall segment for features such as gaps, scaling and aesthetics. KPBS obtained the highly written CBP report and reported in September 2018 that each of the eight prototypes was vulnerable to at least one violation technique.
The demolition teams on Wednesday destroyed seven of the eight prototypes to make way for a largely replacement secondary fence, under construction, aimed at stopping the smugglers from Tijuana. The project will only have a new kilometer and a half and will not replace an existing fence.
"Incorporating the new wall to eight different prototypes would cost a lot more," said officer Border Patrol Pirro.
The towering prototypes – one surmounted by steel spikes – were designed to offer impressive optics. But officials at the South Texas Border Patrol, which is currently planning to build a new 88-mile fence, have quietly announced that they intended to follow the conventional fence design: steel bollards 18-foot hollow filled with concrete and rebar bars.
The new secondary fence, which is already under construction, will be at least 30 feet tall. Customs and Border Protection plan to complete construction in January 2020.