(Headline USA) Top Trump administration officials visited Texas five days before Election Day to announce they have nearly completed 400 miles of U.S.-Mexico border wall, showing progress on perhaps the president’s best-known campaign promise four years ago.
The government built hundreds of miles of fencing as high as 30 feet in a short amount of time — most of it this year.
The Department of Homeland Security waived environmental and other reviews to expedite construction. And despite President Donald Trump’s repeated promises that Mexico would pay for the wall, the construction has been funded by U.S. taxpayers for at least $15 billion, two-thirds coming from military funding.
In Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, where Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and other officials spoke Thursday, authorities have added 7 miles to sections of stop-and-start fencing. That’s despite the region long being the busiest corridor for unauthorized crossings.
Stephen Miller, a top Trump adviser, told reporters Wednesday that “we have a president campaigning on having successfully built a border wall.”
“For us, regardless of who’s sitting in the White House, I think giving the agents the tools and the resources are going to be awfully important,” said Border Patrol Deputy Chief Raul Ortiz. “This infrastructure is important to us doing everything we can to control that border.”
Border Patrol officials say the new fencing, much of which has replaced much smaller vehicle barriers, provides more deterrence against human smugglers and people trying to elude capture. The construction also includes roads, lighting and cameras that help agents detect illegal activity.
Wolf claimed the new sections allowed agents to push border traffic into areas they could better control.
The Trump administration has enacted other measures to stop border-crossers, including new restrictions on asylum eligibility and a public-health declaration citing the coronavirus pandemic that allows agents to quickly expel most migrants.
As of last week, 381 miles of wall have been completed during the Trump administration. More than 270 miles were built using part of the $10 billion that Trump took from military funding under a national emergency he declared last year after Congress refused to meet his request for wall funding.
Congress has funded about $5 billion for border barriers under Trump, including more than $3 billion in the last two fiscal years for construction in the Rio Grande Valley and around Laredo, Texas. Of the more than 150 miles funded by Congress in the last two years, just 5 miles have been built.
The government faces significant obstacles in Texas, where the border is formed by the Rio Grande and the river floodplain is governed by international treaties. Much of the land is privately owned. While government attorneys have filed dozens of condemnation lawsuits this year, many landowners have refused to allow agents onto their land or surrender property without a court order.
“We’re still fighting it,” said Lilly Cavazos Rodriguez, whose family owns land in South Texas that the government has gone to court to seize.
“We’re not willing to give up our land, so we’re going to fight as long as we can,” she said.
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.