President Donald Trump has admitted his border wall is not as impenetrable as he had initially claimed after reports that some parts had been sawed through.
The Washington Post reported on Saturday that smuggling gangs have used commercial power tools to cut through the new parts of Trump’s controversial wall along the Mexican border.
The gangs used a cordless reciprocating saw, which can be purchased at hardware stores starting from as little as $100, to make gaps big enough for people and drugs to pass through, U.S. agents and officials who have knowledge of the situation told the newspaper.
Once fitted with specialized blades, the saws can cut through the steel-and-concrete bollards of the barrier in minutes, according to the unnamed agents.
Trump, who spent years insisting his border wall would be impenetrable, conceded that any wall can be cut through but insisted the damage could be “easily fixed.”
“We have a very powerful wall. But no matter how powerful, you can cut through anything, in all fairness,” Trump told reporters in Washington, D.C. before his departure for New York City on Saturday evening.
“We have a lot of people watching,’ Trump added, according to Politico. “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.”
But according to the Post, smugglers have learned how to cut the bollards and then return them to their positions so that the damage goes unnoticed, allowing the passage to be used multiple times.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents reportedly drive along the barrier and kick the bollards with their boots to check for any defects in the metal. If any are found, welding crews are sent in to fix the damage.
But smugglers have also returned to the same bollards once they have been fixed and cut through the welds as the metal on those bollards is softer, the Post reported. They have also tried to trick agents by using a putty that looks like welding to make a bollard that has been cut look as if it is still intact.
And cutting isn’t the only technique used by the smugglers to circumvent the barrier. They have also been building makeshift ladders to scale the wall, especially in the San Diego area, the Post reported.
In a statement to Newsweek, a CBP spokesperson insisted that “the wall is working.”
The spokesperson said: “Any characterization that the wall isn’t working is simply false. The wall is working and is providing additional capability that Border Patrol agents have asked for.
“What we’re building is a wall system, which includes cameras, sensors, infrastructure and border patrol agents to ensure we ultimately apprehend the criminals trying to defeat it. When someone cuts through the wall and a border patrol agent is standing there to arrest them because of the technology that gave them a heads up, that’s a win.”
The spokesperson didn’t elaborate on how many breaches there have been.
But a senior administration official, who spoke to the Post on the condition of anonymity, said there had been “a few instances” but added that the new fencing had “significantly increased security and deterrence.”
Trump has made building the wall along the border to stop migrants coming into the U.S. from Mexico a major feature of his presidency, repeatedly boasting about its construction at rallies, in ads and on Twitter.
He recently touted the taxpayer-funded barrier as a “world-class security system” that is “virtually impenetrable.”
“When the wall is built, it will be virtually impossible to come over illegally, and then we’re able to take border control and put them at points of entry,” Trump said during a visit to a construction site in San Diego’s Otay Mesa area in September, according to the Associated Press.
Update: This story has been updated to include a statement from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.