Donald Trump’s early, unachieved goal of building a border wall during his first term was a lofty one, and according to two law-enforcement officers involved with the project, the companies contracting out the work may have lowered the standard from the “great,” “big, beautiful” project that he promised.
According to two whistleblowers — a former deputy sheriff in San Diego County and an FBI agent on construction-security detail — some companies working on the wall had failed to properly run their personnel through the necessary Customs and Border Protection vetting process, going so far as to hire armed guards from across the border to protect the job sites. The New York Times obtained a copy of the complaint first filed in February, and much of it has to do with companies called Sullivan Land Services Co. and the more Trump-appropriate Ultimate Concrete. The Times reports:
The whistle-blowers said Ultimate Concrete went so far as to build a dirt road to expedite illegal border crossings to sites in San Diego, using construction vehicles to block security cameras …
Ultimate Concrete “constructed a dirt road that would allow access from the Mexican side of the border into the United States,” the whistle-blowers said in the complaint. “This U.C.-constructed road was apparently the route by which the armed Mexican nationals were unlawfully crossing into the United States.”
An S.L.S. project manager then pressured one of the whistle-blowers in July 2019 to not include information about the Mexican security guards in reports required to be submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers.
Similar to the president’s own habit of overcharging the Secret Service at his properties as a way to bilk taxpayers, the complaint also states that Ultimate Concrete employees submitted fraudulent invoices to the federal government, including for diesel fuel and overstating their costs. “If they were using a forklift, they would use it only sporadically throughout the day but charge the government for fuel, in sum and substance, ‘as if it was running all the time,’” the complaint said.
Since the Trump administration placed its first steel bollard slats in the desert, the border wall has been something of a national tragicomedy — representing some of the more hysterical failures of the current White House, as well as the xenophobia that blinded the president to the futility of the project. Sections of the “virtually impenetrable” wall have blown over in high, but not uncommon, winds, while other areas require gates to be open for months to handle flash flooding. Smugglers have used $100 reciprocating saws to cut through the barrier in minutes, and have employed cheap, rebar ladders to get over the top, making the $18.4 billion allocated to the project ever more absurd. Lest we forget, a little over 400 miles of barrier have been built, but the majority of that has served as a replacement for existing fencing, and Trump instituted a government shutdown over the whole thing — a tantrum that resulted in a budget deal from Democrats that was less than they offered before the president melted down for the longest federal time-out in U.S. history.
In the report on the whistleblower complaint, the Times also provides new information on the frequency at which migrants have been able to cross through sections of the border scarred by the barrier. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol documents obtained by the paper reveal that between October 2019 and March 2020, the wall was breached over 320 times in four areas in California and Arizona.