El Paso Firm Interested in Bidding for the Border Wall Insists It’s Not a Political Choice

Lead Photo: Photo: Photo by Nathaniel Janowitz/VICE News
Photo: Photo by Nathaniel Janowitz/VICE News
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For nearly two years, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump vowed to build a wall between Mexico and the United States in a misguided effort to curb migration from Latin America to the United States. One of his first moves as president was to call for the construction of the border wall with the signing of two executive orders on January 25. Though he and his administration have yet to provide details on how the building of a 2,000-mile wall could logistically move forward – from how to pay for it to whether it’d bypass the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act – firms are vying to take on the project.

According to ABC-7, seven El Paso companies – Burman Construction, Tigua Enterprises Incorporated, Jobe Materials, ECM International, Vertex Contractors, Arbaj Building Contracting, and Henry Trujillo Trucking – have reportedly shown interest in the project. As a city on the border, El Paso’s future is inextricably linked with Juarez’s. In 2008, an 18-foot-high metal fence was built to separate the two countries. The result was that El Paso thrived and Juarez didn’t, according to the Los Angeles Times. Even still, it was impossible to drive a wedge between the two cities, who depend on each other for labor and commerce. “The fence is a symbol for people who care about national security, not something that actually stops people from crossing,” Carlos Marentes, who protested the wall, said. “[Bureaucrats in Washington] don’t know the border. It’s a community you can’t separate.”

The fence also pushed undocumented immigrants from Mexico, Central America, and other Latin American countries to take more drastic measures when trying to cross the border. They had no choice but to go through remote desert areas, which are unforgiving terrains. Between 2010 and 2014, a record number of immigrants attempted the treacherous journey through the Sonoran Desert into Arizona, and many died along the way, the LA Times reports.

“People are going to find a way to cross; you cannot stop that,” said Carlos Valdiviezo. “But the wall will change much about life on the border. People will find a way to cross, but it will be more dangerous now.”

Leo A. Duran, whose family has owned L&J Cafe since 1928, adds that making the two communities more separate will only add more social problems. “I won’t suffer financially, no,” he said. “But our community as a whole will suffer. You cannot cut off one side of a city and expect it to survive.”

Given how dramatically a fence has hurt El Paso’s closest neighbors, it’s disheartening that companies along the border have jumped at the chance to work with the government on the wall. Worse yet, that companies like Tigua Enterprises will rely on the work of indigenous communities and Latinos.

“If we were going to get a big piece of this and the government said, ‘Hey, you’re going to need to hire a bunch of people,’ we would absolutely hire our tribal members, our pueblo members, and then the greater El Paso area,” said Tigua CEO John Baily. “Just cause you’re building the wall doesn’t say whether you support it or do’t support, it’s business. We’re apolitical on this, if you want to know the truth. If it’s going to happen, what I don’t understand is why you wouldn’t want to take advantage of bringing some of that money into the El Paso market?”

The government officially began taking bids for the border wall on March 6, according to CityLab. A week before the formal call, about 180 companies from 41 different states expressed interest in building the wall. The concept prototypes are due March 10, and by March 24, the government will narrow down the list and choose the companies that will have to answer a full request for proposals. The government may award contracts as quickly as mid-April.