AUSTIN (KXAN) — Five days into a partial government shutdown, national leaders have no clear path to an agreement on paying for the border wall President Donald Trump wants. On Christmas Eve, however, President Trump tweeted he was in the Oval Office giving out a contract for a 115-mile section of a border wall. KXAN spent the day looking for more information on a project that would impact thousands of Texans.
Few details have emerged. In the meantime, more than 800,000 federal workers work without pay or are furloughed as Democrats and Republicans can’t meet in the middle on the wall. Republicans want it; Democrats don’t.
TSA agents and some border patrol agents are among those working without pay.
How is the border wall funded?
Infrastructure and physical barriers — known as “the border wall” — are funded through The Department of Homeland Security, the US Army Corps of Engineers and Customs and Border Patrol. Staff for the Department of Homeland Security tells KXAN the 115-mile portion will come from the DHS budget for fiscal year 2017 and fiscal year 2018.
However, budget documents for this year didn’t mention it. Those documents do mention a smaller portion of wall slated to be built early next year.
The border between Texas and Mexico is just less than 2,000 miles long. There is already a wall for 650 miles of it after the 2006 Secure Fence Act. So far, the Trump administration convinced Congress to approve 32 new miles of wall in the Rio Grande Valley near the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas.
Workers for the Texas-based company SLSCO are reported to begin construction in February. KXAN reached out to the company to see if they also won this larger contract. Company staff have not yet returned our request for comment.
Another 115-miles of fencing?
Government staff have not responded to KXAN’s questions about the specific contract mentioned in the tweet.
If the Department of Homeland Security receives the additional $5 billion President Trump wants, department leaders plan to build more than 200 additional miles of fencing.
The government shutdown has slowed the gears on any additional wall funding as well as staff charged with answering questions about it. When KXAN reached out with questions about President Trump’s tweet, several people directed our questions to the White House.
KXAN then reached out to White House communications staffers — the official line of communicating with the press — and has not heard back with responses. However, many auto-email responses were returned saying, “Due to a lapse in government funding, I have been furloughed and will not have access to my email or phone.”