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Border Wall System - Frequently Asked Questions

CBP utilizes a comprehensive approach to border security that leverages local, state, and federal law enforcement partners and use of technology, infrastructure, and enforcement personnel to secure the Southwest border. The border wall is one element of CBP’s approach to border security that provides persistent impedance and denial to illegal cross-border activity. Below are frequently asked questions and answers about the border wall program.

Construction Schedule

When will border wall construction begin?

The border wall system construction includes new border and levee wall construction, replacement of existing legacy border fence, and the construction of associated infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and lighting. Current projects include:

  • Construction of new Levee/Border Wall System funded in Fiscal Year 2018. These projects are located in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas. Construction timelines are still being finalized, but could begin as early as February 2019.
  • Replacement of existing legacy border fence in the U.S. Border Patrol, El Paso Sector. Construction of this project began in September 2018.

When will the border wall be complete?

The completion of each project will vary based on the timing of each contract award and any unforeseen circumstances that may impact the construction schedule.


How will the project be funded?

CBP operates under an annual budget based on appropriations received from Congress.  For Fiscal Year 2018, CBP received $1.375 billion for border infrastructure projects on the U.S. Southwest border.

  • For the Rio Grande Valley, $641 million was appropriated for all costs associated with planning, land acquisition, and construction of 8-12 miles of new border wall system in Starr County and 25 miles of new levee wall system in Hidalgo County.

How much has the federal government spent on the Southwest border infrastructure?

Beginning in 2007, CBP has spent approximately $2.3 billion to construct the legacy border fence and associated infrastructure along the Southwest border.

How much does it cost to construct a new border wall or replace the existing legacy fence?

On average, the cost to CBP to construct a new border wall or replace existing legacy fence is approximately $6.5 million per mile.

How much does it cost to maintain the border wall?

On average, CBP budgets $50-55 million per year to maintain and repair several hundred gates, thousands of miles roads and bridges, approximately two thousand lighting and electrical systems, hundreds of drainage systems and grates, and thousands of acres of vegetation and debris removal from infrastructure.

Environmental/Cultural Impact

How will the border wall impact the environmental, cultural, and socioeconomic attributes of the areas where it will be built?

CBP works with federal, tribal, state, and local agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the public to obtain information and data related to potential environmental, cultural, and socioeconomic impacts that may result from the border infrastructure projects. The information aids CBP in its analysis of possible impacts and assists in identifying measures that will be implemented during construction to avoid or minimize impacts to the greatest extent practicable. CBP is currently in the process of evaluating information and data obtained from its outreach and field surveys in the Rio Grande Valley and is preparing an analysis of potential environmental impacts from the construction of its Fiscal Year 2018 funded Levee/Border Wall system projects.

What is CBP’s commitment to responsible environmental planning?

CBP is committed to:

  • Identifying potential impacts and areas of concern;
  • Establishing best management practices for construction;
  • Implementing mitigation measures to avoid or minimize impacts to the environment to the greatest extent practicable;
  • Ensuring environmental planning is informed by:
    • Existing environmental data,
    • New biological, cultural, and natural resources field surveys,
    • Consulting and coordinating with stakeholders.

How much vegetation will be cleared within the 150-foot enforcement zone?

CBP’s approach to vegetation management will vary along the border wall alignment to address local conditions, including erosion control, while achieving optimal visibility within the enforcement zone. CBP conducts environmental surveys of the proposed enforcement zone area to identify critical habitat and other biological and cultural resources that may be present. Based on these surveys, CBP will avoid or minimize impacts to those resources to the greatest extent practicable. Where impacts are not avoidable, CBP works with stakeholders to identify appropriate mitigation measures.

Border Wall Types

What types of border wall exist along the Southwest border?

The current types of border barrier along the Southwest border include picket fence, concrete levee wall with steel bollards, floating fences, steel bollards, vehicle bollards, and “Normandy” barriers.

How did CBP determine what types of barrier would be used?

In 2007, a number of low-cost solutions were tested as part of the Fence Lab project. This project was implemented to determine which barrier designs could best meet U.S. Border Patrol’s operational requirements and be deployed rapidly along the Southwest border.  Rapid deployment, the estimated cost of construction and repair, and the ability to withstand severe impacts and disable vehicles were just a few of the criteria that went into the evaluation of the proposed solutions at Fence Lab. Additional prototypes were developed and tested in 2017 to replace and close gaps in the legacy fence.

What were the results of the border wall prototype testing?

While none of the prototypes tested in 2017 met all of CBP’s operational requirements, they provided valuable data to assist CBP in selecting design elements that could be used on border wall designs in the future.


Where is most of the legacy border fence located?

Most of CBP’s legacy pedestrian fence is located in the San Diego, Yuma, El Centro, Tucson, El Paso, and Rio Grande Valley Sectors. Most of CBP’s legacy vehicle fence is located in the Tucson, El Paso, and Yuma Sectors.

How is CBP deciding where to build the border wall?

U.S. Border Patrol’s operational needs determine the locations and priority for the border wall. The final alignment is based on geographic characteristics along the Southwest border, such as hills, rivers, mountains, forests, and desert.


What is the length of the Southwest border?

The length of the Southwest border with Mexico is approximately 1,954 miles.

How many miles of border wall exist along the Southwest border?

There are approximately 354 miles of pedestrian barriers and 300 miles of vehicle barriers along the Southwest border, for a total of 654 miles.

Property Owners

Will landowners be able to access land on the south side of the wall once it is constructed?

Yes, landowners will continue to have access to their land on the south side of the wall. CBP is coordinating with landowners to ensure their concerns and considerations for continued access are addressed in the final design, including the size of motorized gates that will be installed.  U. S. Border Patrol may, at its discretion, enter into a pre-arranged, written agreement with landowners to determine on a case-by-case basis when and how long each gate will remain open.  Separate written agreements for gate openings and closings can be made for special circumstances (e.g. dove hunting season).

Will landowners be subject to “Eminent Domain” law?

It is always CBP’s preference to acquire property through a voluntary, negotiated sale.  The Government will attempt to negotiate an offer to sell using survey data and value estimates gleaned from the surveying process. The Government will attempt to negotiate an offer to sell before moving forward with exercising eminent domain.  However, if the Government and landowner are unable to reach a negotiated sale or if the Government is unable to obtain clean title, the Government will need to file an eminent domain action.  In such instances, the matter is referred to the local United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) to file a Declaration of Taking.  USAO attorneys will meet with landowners in an effort to negotiate a voluntary offer to sell prior to filing a Declaration of Taking.

How will the wall affect irrigation for ranches or farms?

Landowners will maintain their access to irrigation lines and canals.


What is the purpose of the border wall?

The primary goal of the border wall and other tactical infrastructure projects is to gain effective control of the border. Border wall construction is intended to provide persistent impedance and denial to illegal cross-border activity. Border wall systems provide U.S. Border Patrol agents a greater ability to detect and respond to illegal cross-border entries.

Is the border wall the only approach CBP is using to help secure the Southwest border?

CBP utilizes a comprehensive approach to border security that leverages local, state, and federal law enforcement partners and use of technology, infrastructure, and enforcement personnel to secure the Southwest border. The border wall is one element of CBP’s approach to border security.


What is a waiver?

The waiver allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to waive some legal requirements as the Secretary deems necessary to construct barriers and roads to deter illegal entry into the United States.

What gives the Secretary authority to issue a waiver?

The Secretary’s waiver authority is derived from Section 102(c) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, as amended (“IIRIRA”), an authority granted to the Secretary by Congress.

What laws are being waived?

The waiver includes various environmental, natural resource, and land management laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Does the waiver address the laws or processes concerning acquisition of private property?

No, the waiver does not impact the process required for the acquisition of private property.

Stakeholder Comments

Will CBP accept public input on the border wall system projects?

Yes, CBP considers public input throughout the environmental review and construction design processes on all border infrastructure projects. The first opportunity for public input is during the scoping phase for environmental impacts. CBP solicits information from the public on the presence and characteristics of sensitive resources and potential physical, biological, and cultural impacts. Following the evaluation of impacts, CBP releases an Environmental Stewardship Plan (for projects that are waived from environmental laws) or an Environmental Assessment (for projects without a waiver). In addition, throughout design and construction phases, CBP consults directly with affected landowners.


How will the border wall impact wildlife along the border?

CBP works closely with the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and other federal, state and non-governmental organizations to identify potential impacts to wildlife and habitats. To the greatest extent practicable, CBP will incorporate design considerations to avoid, minimize, or mitigate any potential impacts that are found. CBP regularly completes assessments of possible impacts to wildlife for its border infrastructure projects and is in the process of evaluating potential impacts to wildlife from its Fiscal Year 2018 Levee/Border Wall System projects.

Last modified: 
Friday, December 21, 2018 - 11:12