Never one to back down from controversy, the US President is continuing with one of his key campaign promises. Donald Trump promised to build a wall to keep illegal immigrants and drug smugglers out of the US and work has finally begun on test structures. Those pleasing to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will form elements of the final Wall.

A high tech barrier

The border with Mexico spans four states comprising California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. President Trump initially vowed to make Mexico pay for the wall. However, its President Enrique Pena Nieto has declared it will not.

President Trump initially asked Congress for $1.5 billion for the final wall but it is yet uncertain whether that figure will change. Various contractors are working on the prototypes and it is still uncertain who will build the final barrier, into which cameras and sensors will be placed. Each prototype will be thirty feet long and up to thirty feet high. The US President indicated that some sections of the wall would be transparent, so officials could see exactly what was taking place on the other side. However, CBP confirmed that four of the prototypes will be made from concrete, while the others will use alternative materials. Officials added that the prototypes "will inform future design standards which will likely continue to evolve to meet the US Border Patrol's requirements".

Breaking the law?

The controversial wall has not come without its own problems. A lawsuit filed in late September 2017, argues that the Government has overstepped its authority by waiving several environmental laws to allow Construction. In 2005, Homeland Security was given the power to waive numerous laws for border barriers.

These included the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air Act. But officials are criticising President Trump, saying that the authority to waive the rules are expired and he must act within the law.

Is the wall really effective?

Among the CBP’s requirements are that the wall is sunk at least six feet into the ground and must include 25 and 50-foot automated gates for pedestrians and vehicles.

Following completion of the prototypes, a testing period will be enacted to determine effectiveness. Among other things, small hand tools will be used to gauge the wall’s resistance to penetration. Trump’s critics have argued that a wall will not be capable of keeping out illegal immigrants since they will simply tunnel underground, or find a weak spot in the barrier. These methods have been used in the past and still pose a problem for Border officials. However, speaking to the Telegraph in August 2017, President Trump maintained that seismic and other equipment could easily pinpoint tunnels and prevent such digging. Earlier, he was adamant that the wall would be of great benefit to Mexico telling ABC News that “this wall will deter illegal immigration from Central America and disrupt violent cartel networks."