Tuesday March 20, 2018
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US to Award Contracts for Building Mexico Border Wall

Trump has said the wall will cost $12 billion, while Republican leaders in Congress have pegged its cost 20 percent higher than that. An internal Homeland Security report forecast the total cost could be as much as $21.6 billion.

FILE - Workers continue work raising a taller fence on the Mexico-U.S. border separating the towns of Anapra, Mexico, and Sunland Park, New Mexico, Jan. 25, 2017.

The U.S. government plans to start awarding preliminary contracts by April for construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border, to fulfill one of President Donald Trump’s principal campaign promises.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it will accept “concept papers” for the wall’s design beginning next week and will choose the best ones by March 20. The agency will then ask vendors for construction cost estimates and, after reviewing their bids, begin granting contracts by mid-April — a remarkably quick schedule for a government construction project.

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Trump told the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday that the border-wall project was “way ahead of schedule.”

“We’re going to build a wall, don’t worry about it,” Trump told a cheering crowd of his supporters. “We’re building a wall. We’re building the wall. In fact, it’s going to start soon.”

Cost estimates vary

The Customs and Border Protection agency, a unit of the Department of Homeland Security, did not indicate where the initial phase of construction will begin.

Trump has said the wall will cost $12 billion, while Republican leaders in Congress have pegged its cost 20 percent higher than that. An internal Homeland Security report forecast the total cost could be as much as $21.6 billion.

Since the earliest stages of his presidential campaign in 2015, Trump has vowed to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico as a way to stop illegal immigration and drug trafficking. He has assured Americans that Mexico would pay for the wall — a claim denied repeatedly by Mexico’s elected leaders — and the issue has soured relations between the two countries.

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Relations with Mexico sour

The White House has said Trump has a “buffet of options” to make Mexico to pay for the wall, including imposing a 20 percent tax on all imports from Mexico. Critics have said that scenario would mean American consumers actually would be paying for the wall.

The border barrier primarily would be aimed at stopping illegal immigrants from entering the United States. However, many Mexicans regard the idea of a wall as an insult, and authorities on both sides of the international border have predicted that rough terrain and large stretches of private property straddling the border could make building the wall a long, complicated project.(VOA)

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Washington Becomes First State to Approve Net-neutrality Rules

“We know that when D.C. fails to act, Washington state has to do so,”

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks after signing a bill, March 5, 2018, in Olympia, Washington, that makes Washington the first state to set up its own net-neutrality requirements in response to the FCC's recent repeal of Obama-era rules. VOA

Washington became the first state Monday to set up its own net-neutrality requirements after U.S. regulators repealed Obama-era rules that banned internet providers from blocking content or impairing traffic.

“We know that when D.C. fails to act, Washington state has to do so,” Gov. Jay Inslee said before signing the measure that lawmakers passed with bipartisan support. “We know how important this is.”

The Federal Communications Commission voted in December to gut U.S. rules that meant to prevent broadband companies such as Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon from exercising more control over what people watch and see on the internet.

ALSO READ: What will be the Fate of Net Neutrality after Being Repealed?

Because the FCC prohibited state laws from contradicting its decision, opponents of the Washington law have said it would lead to lawsuits.

Inslee said he was confident of its legality, saying “the states have a full right to protect their citizens.” Pixabay

Oregon law has not been signed

The new law also requires internet providers to disclose information about their management practices, performance, and commercial terms. Violations would be enforceable under the state’s Consumer Protection Act.

While several states introduced similar measures this year seeking to protect net neutrality, only Oregon and Washington passed bills. But Oregon’s measure wouldn’t put any new requirements on internet providers.

It would stop state agencies from buying internet service from any company that blocks or prioritizes specific content or apps, starting in 2019. It’s unclear when Oregon’s measure would be signed into law.

Washington state was among more than 20 states and the District of Columbia that sued in January to try and block the FCC’s action. There are also efforts by Democrats to undo the move in Congress.

Governors in five states — Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Montana, and Vermont — have signed executive orders related to net-neutrality issues, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Pixabay

ALSO READ: Zuckerberg in favor of 100 percent net neutrality

Expect new rules by mid-June

Big telecom companies have said net neutrality rules could undermine investment in broadband and introduce uncertainty about what are acceptable business practices. Net-neutrality advocates say the FCC decision would harm innovation and make it harder for the government to crack down on internet providers who act against consumer interests.

The FCC’s new rules are not expected to go into effect until later this spring. Washington’s law will take effect mid-June.

Messages left with the Broadband Communications Association of Washington, which opposed the bill, were not immediately returned. (VOA)