Federal, state and local law enforcement continued to prepare for the start of construction of prototypes for President Donald Trump’s long-sought border wall in the Otay Mesa area of San Diego, though agencies remained tight-lipped about when work will begin.
Miles of temporary chain-link fencing surround a huge section of the mesa, essentially blocking foot access from the north and west.
Over the weekend, signs designating no-parking zones were placed along roads and streets in business parks that crowd the border area. The signs, posted by the San Diego Police Department and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, ban parking around the clock starting Tuesday.
The county’s parking ban extends to Nov. 10, and the city prohibition ends Nov. 1.
Despite the preparations, which have been going on for weeks, Customs and Border Protection officials declined to say when construction would begin. Mark Endicott, a spokesman for the Border Patrol, said Monday that construction is expected to begin “in the near future.”
“We currently don’t have anything to release regarding the start of construction,” he said.
There are expectations it will start this week, perhaps as soon as Tuesday, the day the parking ban goes into effect. That is also the date that construction was scheduled to begin, according to a security briefing memo issued this month to local law enforcement discussing the possibility of protests over the project.
A spokesman for the sheriff also did not say when work would begin or provide details on a discussed “free-speech zone” where any protesters demonstrating against the month-long project would be confined.
The no-parking zone blankets the closest developed area that could provide access to the site where the prototypes are to be built, about 1.5 miles east from Enrico Fermi Drive on the mesa. The area is open land stitched with trails and private roads, and is a checkerboard of public and private land ownership.
Over the last month, miles of chain-link fencing have been erected on the open mesa, blocking off individual parcels of land.
On Monday, vehicles from Customs and Border Protection and the Sheriff’s Department were seen driving the dirt roads on the mesa. At one point, the Border Patrol’s mounted unit of eight agents on horseback patrolled the mesa’s roads and paths.
Other contractor crews were placing concrete barrier walls at some intersections, closing off access to roads. At least three mobile security cameras have also been placed at points overlooking the broad mesa.
The fencing and barriers and other apparent security measures might be for naught. The security memo that identified Tuesday as the start date for construction sent by the Department of Homeland Security also said the project could attract large-scale protests, perhaps similar to the weeks-long encampment of opponents protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline project.
There was no sign of any nascent protests on Monday. Hiram Soto, a spokesman for the activist group Alliance San Diego, said his group is not planning any demonstrations.
“It’s just political theater,” he said of the wall prototypes project. “There is no funding for it in Congress. ” He said he did not know of any other local groups that were planning to demonstrate against the project.
Moran writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.