WASHINGTON - Smuggling gangs in Mexico are cutting through the "virtually impenetrable" wall President Donald Trump is building along the U.S.-Mexico border to keep migrants and drugs out of the country, but Trump says he is not concerned.
"We have a very powerful wall," Trump told reporters Saturday at the White House. "But no matter how powerful, you can cut through anything, in all fairness. But we have a lot of people watching. You know cutting, cutting is one thing, but it's easily fixed. One of the reasons we did it the way we did it, it's very easily fixed. You put the chunk back in."
Trump offered his thoughts after The Washington Post disclosed that gangs have repeatedly sawed through the border wall in recent months using a reciprocating saw, a popular household tool that sells for as little as $100 at hardware stores.
When equipped with specialized blades, the saws can cut through the steel-and-concrete bollards within minutes, according to border agents.
Once bases of the bollards have been cut, smugglers have been able to push them aside, creating a space wide enough for migrants and smugglers to enter. It has not been disclosed how many times the breaches have occurred.
One of Trump's favorite 2016 election campaign themes was that he would build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border to thwart illegal immigration - and that Mexico would pay for it.
But with his 2020 re-election bid a year away, the wall remains a work in progress. Trump long ago abandoned efforts to get Mexico to pay for it, but also never won congressional approval of the tens of billion of dollars that would be required to build it.
Trump instead declared a national emergency at the southern border and, over the objection of critics in Congress, transferred money from other projects to fund wall construction.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection said that overall $9.8 billion has been secured in the last three years to build more than 800 kilometers of a "new border wall system."
To date, however, no "new wall" — an extension to an existing barrier — has been built.
But about 90 kilometers of replacement barrier and 14 kilometers of new secondary barriers have been constructed.