SAN DIEGO -- Crews in Otay Mesa are working on a new, secondary border wall that will replace 12.5 miles of existing fencing that went up in the late 1990s.
Officials say the old fence is made up of old, landing mat steel plates and no longer much of an obstacle for illegal crossings and smuggling.
“It gets compromised or breached, cut – almost on a daily basis. Last three years, there’s been over 1,500 cuts to that secondary fence alone," Border Patrol Agent Theron Francisco said Friday. “We see it get cut in about 30 to 45 seconds with power tools that these organizations can get at a Walmart or Target.”
What is now being installed is a much more sturdy, bollard steel 30-foot wall -- the same style as the 18 to 30-foot primary wall.
The walls are about 30 to 40 yards apart and will stretch 14 miles east from Imperial Beach. The secondary wall project includes 1.5 miles of new wall.
“Without those two layers, aliens and human smugglers can get across into a waiting vehicle in a matter of minutes. New infrastructure will take much longer and deter a lot more people just because of sheer size," said Francisco.
Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security issued a waiver to fast-track the project. Construction is expected to be completed next January.
According DHS, so far this fiscal year, authorities have apprehended more than 18,000 people who crossed the border illegally in the San Diego area -- up nearly 70 percent compared to the same time last year.
But Border Patrol agents say there will be far fewer wall breaches with the new construction.
“Since the new wall – which is 18 feet tall, a little harder to get across with an anti-climbing plate on top – that ... will even go down further," Francisco said.