White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer Argues That a Border Fence Can Also Be a Border Wall

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White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer argued with reporters Wednesday about when a fence becomes a wall. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

President Donald Trump will not build the 35 to 55-foot-high concrete wall on the U.S.-Mexico border that he promised Americans during his campaign but rather a 20-foot high steel fence, said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer Wednesday.

Spicer argued with reporters that fencing should be considered a wall and is good enough to show the president is already delivering on his border security promises.

“What I’m telling anybody is that the president said he was going to build the wall and he’s doing it, and he’s using the best technology,” Spicer said during a White House press briefing where he showed reporters images of steel fences being built on 40 miles along the border.

“Are those photos of fences or walls?” one reporter asked. “There are various types of walls that can be built,” Spicer said. “This is a down payment on what the President is going to prioritize in the 2018 budget that starts October 1st.”

In March President Trump asked for $1 billion for border wall funding to build 48 miles of new wall along the southern border. Rather than face a potential government shutdown when he met resistance in Congress, the president backed off that amount. Congress agreed to $497 million last week for ‘‘procurement, construction, and improvements’’ to barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Exactly $341 million of that will go to replacing 40 miles of existing fence with “previously deployed” steel bollard designs. Roughly $78 million is meant for “border security technology.”

Read more: Trump's Mexico border wall is unlikely to stretch “from sea to shining sea,” says John Kelly

Spicer said the building is moving ahead in Naco, Arizona, and Sunland Park, New Mexico, and will start soon in San Diego, El Paso, and the Rio Grande Valley.

This shows that Trump has won and “and got his priorities funded” said White House budget director, Mick Mulvaney on Tuesday. Democrats “want you to think they won, but they don't want you to know the American people won here because the president simply out-negotiated them.”

“There's no bricks and mortar for a wall in this,” Mulvaney said. “We’ve talked about bricks and mortar. We’ve talked about concrete walls. This is what [the Department of Homeland Security] wants. Why? Because it actually works better.”

On March 20 companies submitted designs to the Department of Homeland Security to build a 30ft-tall concrete barrier after the Trump administration put out a call for proposals earlier that month. The intent of the competition is "to acquire and evaluate available wall prototypes and provide some initial construction of some wall segments," the request said. It's not meant to be a "total wall solution" but a chance for the Trump administration to see what its options are.

President Trump has maintained that he wants to see a concrete barrier on the border that could be anywhere between 35 to 55-feet-high. “I'm talking about a real wall. I'm talking about a wall that's got to be, like, serious,” Trump told Sean Hannity of Fox News six days into his presidency on January 26. “All you have to do is ask Israel,” Trump said, referring to a concrete barrier in Gaza. “They were having a total disaster coming across and they had a wall. It’s 99.9 percent stoppage.”

Construction of a concrete wall along the 2,000 mile border could cost as much as $21.6 billion and take more than three years to build Reuters revealed in early February, citing a Department of Homeland Security evaluation. The estimate is nearly double the $12 billion cost Trump promised during his campaign. The president says Mexico will pay for the wall but the government there says it won’t.

About 65 percent of the U.S.-Mexico border doesn’t have any fencing at all. And “it’s unlikely that we will build a wall or physical barrier from sea to shining sea,” John Kelly, Secretary of Homeland Security, told Congress in early April.

Kelly said he envisioned security along the border would consist of some stretches of physical barriers, with “high tech fencing” and electronic monitoring in other places.

This will be better than what is currently protecting the border Spicer argued Wednesday. “This is the kind of barrier that exists throughout the country,” he said, showing reporters photos of a chain-link fence.

“Someone can literally cut through with a pair of wire cutters or put a little barrier over that a car can drive over the top. Okay?” he said. “We are able to go in there, and instead of having a chain-link fence, replace it with that bollard wall. That's what it is.”