Members of the military who have been deployed to the Southern border have been tasked with, of all very important and necessary things that U.S. Customs and Border Protection clearly needs help with, painting the border wall, because it’s not aesthetically pleasing enough, according to a Department of Homeland Security email obtained by CBS News.
The email, sent to Congress on Wednesday, said service members will be painting border barriers in Calexico, CA, over the course of 30 days. The email didn’t mention how many people were tasked with painting. However, it did make clear that the military will be painting the wall primarily because it is ugly. From CBS News, emphasis mine:
“While the primary purpose is to improve the aesthetic appearance of the wall, there may also be an operational benefit based on our experience with painted barrier in Nogales, Arizona,” the email read.
In its notification to Congress, DHS said painting of border barriers in Tucson, Arizona had allowed Border Patrol to combat the “camouflaging tactics of illegal border crossers” who sought to evade detection. The agency said migrants also appeared to have “greater difficulty” scaling painted bollards along the border.
In February, Trump redirected $6.1 billion from the military via executive order after declaring the border a national emergency. Senator Dick Durbin and Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro have so far admonished DHS’s use of military members as painters, with Durbin calling the project a “disgraceful misuse of taxpayer $$.”
Last month, the Washington Post reported that Trump wanted the wall painted black, so that it would be too hot to climb for border crossers attempting to scale the wall. He also wanted the ends of steel wall bollards to be pointed so that they would “cut the hands of climbers.” The Post also wrote that Trump bothered U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite several times to tell him the wall was too ugly.
I have reached out to DHS for comment and will update if I hear back.
Update, 12:45 p.m. ET: A CBP official sent the following statement to Splinter:
The purpose of this effort is to paint one mile of newly constructed border wall in Calexico, California. While the primary purpose is to improve the aesthetic appearance of the wall, CBP believes there may also be an operational benefit based on our experience with painted barrier in Nogales, Arizona. The request was made to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to support with the application, with CBP paying for the paint and associated materials. The paint and application materials and equipment cost is approximately $150,000. This project is being funded with CBP tactical infrastructure maintenance funding and is expected to be completed in 30 days.
CBP applied paint to multiple locations in USBP’s Tucson Sector in March 2019 to address camouflaging tactics of illegal border crossers seeking to evade detection in the terrain surrounding the steel bollards. As an additional and unanticipated benefit of the paint application, Tucson Sector agents noted that individuals appeared to have greater difficulty attempting to scale the painted sections.