With a fight over border wall funding keeping the U.S. government shut down, President Donald Trump said Tuesday that construction is set to start on “probably the biggest section” of the wall in Texas next month.
Speaking to reporters on Christmas morning, Trump said the federal government yesterday handed out a contract to build 115 miles (about 185 kilometres) of wall, which represents about a fifth of the total 500 to 550 miles (805 to 885 kilometres) he expects to see constructed along the U.S.-Mexico border.
WATCH: Trump claims part of border wall built, cites Israel as proof a wall works
He hopes to have all 550 miles built by November 2020, when the next U.S. election rolls around.
“It’s a 2,000-mile border, but much of it has mountains and region where you can’t get across so we’re looking at between 500 and 550,” Trump said.
He also said the government has renovated a “massive amount of wall and, in addition to that — and I think very, very importantly — we built a lot of new wall.”
Trump’s remarks drew some scrutiny on Tuesday morning.
Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump pledged to build a “great, great wall” on the border and said Mexico would pay for it.
But Tuesday represented the first time he said how much he’d build or made any suggestion that renovating existing barrier would count toward realizing his promise, according to the Dallas News.
Trump wants $5 billion to build the wall, and that amount would take care of approximately 215 miles — half of which would be replacements, it added.
The cost of a wall along America’s southern border has been pegged at anywhere between $12 billion (Trump’s estimate) and $21 billion (Homeland Security’s estimate).
The idea of building one has repeatedly been criticized, however, with some suggesting that there’s no crisis that the wall would solve. Opponents have also noted previous efforts to strengthen the border that have been cheaper than building a wall.
U.S. border apprehensions hit a decade-long high in 2007 and fell every year until 2011, when they started to fluctuate from one year to the next.
Former president Barack Obama also took tough action on the border, which included a $600-million spending bill that helped to pay for more border agents, drones and personnel for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Trump expects to go to Texas for a groundbreaking ceremony next month.