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Concept illustration of a U.S.-Mexico border enforcement zone, showing examples of border security elements (image courtesy US Customs and Border Protection)

The Trump administration has awarded contracts to four companies to build concrete prototypes for a border wall between Mexico and the United States, marking a significant move towards fulfilling President Trump’s much-touted promise to curb immigration between the two countries.

The four companies, announced by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in a press conference yesterday, are Caddell Construction of Montgomery, Alabama; Fisher Sand & Gravel/DBA Fisher Industries of Tempe, Arizona; Texas Sterling Construction of Houston; and W.G. Yates & Sons Construction of Philadelphia, Mississippi. Designed to “deter illegal crossings,” the concrete prototypes must be between 18–30 feet high and span 30 feet; each will cost between $400,000 and $500,000. The CBP has reallocated the money from other programs, according to the New York Times. 

Yesterday’s announcement arrives months after the Department of Homeland Security issued a call for proposals for the border wall, which elicited hundreds of designs — from a hyperloop transportation system to an aqueduct. The companies vying for contracts included architecture firms, defense contractors, security companies, engineering firms, and others, but the four selected are all general construction providers.

Fisher Industries and Texas Sterling Construction both specialize in infrastructure, with portfolios full of highway and bridge projects, and other mass transit jobs. Less niche is Yates Construction; its history of industrial and commercial projects includes work on office buildings, university centers, casinos, correctional institutions, a bass pro shop, and even the Mississippi Museum of Art. Caddell Construction’s record is also varied, featuring power plants, many penitentiaries, a large array of embassies around the world (notably including the U.S. Consulate Generals in Tijuana and in Juarez), and a number of defense projects.

The companies will begin building their prototypes in the coming weeks in the San Diego area, where Border Patrol agents will evaluate their effectiveness. The winning wall must be designed to prevent scaling and the digging of tunnels, but officials will also consider aesthetics — at least from the American side, according to The Times.

In July, the House approved $1.6 billion in border wall funding in fiscal year 2018, despite Trump’s pledge to have Mexico pay for the project. The Senate has not yet acted on the measure, which prompted the President to threaten a government shutdown if he doesn’t get money for his “great, great wall.”

He will, at least, have a fair amount of design options on which to dwell. CBP will announce another round of winning bids next week for non-concrete wall types. We suggest they take a look at these proposals that imagine a structure built of pipe organs, hammocks, or lighthouses.

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Claire Voon

Claire Voon is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Singapore, she grew up near Washington, D.C. and is now based in Chicago. Her work has also appeared in New York Magazine, VICE,...