US to start building 57 miles of 18ft-high fences along Mexican border | US News

Army engineers have received permission to start planning and building 57 miles of 5.5m (18ft) high fencing along the US border with Mexico.

The Pentagon is diverting $1bn (£758m) of funding to support the project, which acting defence secretary Patrick Shanahan says is designed to block “drug-smuggling corridors”.

The fencing is going to be erected in Yuma, Arizona and El Paso, Texas – and both areas have recently seen illegal border crossings increase.

Many of those who attempt to cross are asylum-seeking families from Central America.

Patrick Shanahan (C) says the $1bn (£758m) will be used to build the wall
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Patrick Shanahan (C) says the $1bn (£758m) will be used to build the wall

A statement explained that the funds will also be used for “constructing and improving roads and installing lighting” to support counter-narcotic activities undertaken by federal law enforcement agencies.

Building a border wall to stop criminals from entering the US was a key promise of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016 – but at the time, he had claimed it would be paid for by Mexico, not American taxpayers.

The president caused controversy when he declared that there is a national emergency at the Mexican border.

A vote designed to try and override this declaration appears certain to fail when it reaches the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

If it does fail, Mr Trump will be able to shift an additional $3.6bn (£2.7bn) from military construction projects to building a barrier along America’s southwest boundary.

The Pentagon building in Washington, DC
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The Pentagon is diverting $1bn (£758m) of funding to support the project

After the Pentagon’s $1bn transfer to commence wall construction in Arizona and Texas, the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr, tweeted: “Christmas came early this week.”

That message, which was retweeted by the president, may also have been referring to Robert Mueller’s investigation, which found no evidence that Mr Trump’s campaign “conspired or co-ordinated” with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election.

The $1bn transfer has been criticised by some Democratic senators, who claim it is taking place without congressional approval and amounts to a “dollar-for-dollar theft from other readiness needs of our armed forces”.

In response to a letter written by Mr Shanahan, senators including Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Dick Durbin of Illinois said they had “serious concerns that the department has allowed political interference and pet projects to come ahead of many near-term, critical readiness issues facing our military”.

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