While Trump Talks Border Wall, Feds Spending Millions on Upgrades to Existing Fences

SUNLAND PARK, N.M. -- Along a stretch of the Mexico border butting up against the Texas-New Mexico state line, construction workers are building a looming rust-colored barrier, It's not a new wall as President Trump has promised, but a new fence to replace the old one that was falling apart.“It’s to upgrade it,” explained Erica King, a Border Patrol agent in the El Paso sector. “It’s to replace old fencing that was already deteriorated and just needed to get replaced.”As Trump moves forward with a plan to build a “big,” “beautiful,” “great” wall, millions are being spent to upgrade sections of the existing fence and maintain hundreds of miles of fence in key spots along the border. Critics of Trump’s border security strategy question the need for a new border barrier and balk at the cost estimated as much as $25 billion -- without maintenance expenses.The hot-button issue is expected to dominate talks when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly visit Mexico City Wednesday and Thursday for planned meetings with President Enrique Peña Nieto and members of his cabinet. The trip is aimed at mending fences between the administrations of Trump and Peña Nieto, after Trump insisted Mexico pay for his proposed wall along the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. Peña Nieto vowed not to pay anything and under pressure from his countrymen, he canceled a visit to Washington. Mexico’s foreign ministry said in a statement that the meeting between U.S. and Mexican officials was aimed at building “a respectful, close and constructive relationship between the two countries.”Kelly has spent part of the past two weeks touring the border with stops in Texas, Arizona and California. He talked to local, state and federal authorities, including Border Patrol agents on the ground who work in the shadow of the fence. In an executive order President Trump directed Homeland Security to do a comprehensive study of security of the southern border within 180 days, and officials say the Border Patrol assessment should be completed well before the deadline. The agency is moving forward now and said in a statement it "has identified locations near El Paso, Tucson, Ariz., and El Centro, Calif., where we will build a wall in areas where the fence or old brittle landing-mat fencing are no longer effective."  Continue reading...

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