2020 Could be the High Water Mark for Border Wall Construction
Nearly four years after Donald Trump pledged to build a wall along the 1,954-mile U.S.-Mexico border, how many miles of new barriers have been completed?
Itdepends on the definition of “new.”
Incommon parlance, “new” refers to wall segments built where no barrier existedpreviously. But according to the administration’s broader definition, “new”includes sections that are replacements or upgrades.
Thedistinction is important because a full border wall was a signature campaign promisethat helped elect Trump in 2016. At that time, more than a thousand miles ofAmerica’s southern border had no barriers of any type.
As of this month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported that 275 miles of “new border wall system” have been completed. But that figure merits an asterisk. The Washington Post calculated that, as of October, only 16 miles of fencing had been built where barriers did not already exist.
CBP’s “wall system” terminology indicates that replacement segments are a significant improvement over previous fences. “It’s not just a wall; it’s a wall system. It’s got integrated lighting and technology and access roads,” Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan explained last fall.
Constructionof a 14-mile section near San Diego highlightsthe difference. The project installed 18-foot steel bollards, improvedroads and added sensor technology in place of 8-foot, dilapidated and outdatedpedestrian fencing to create what CBP calls “a complete enforcementzone.”
Partnering with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, CBP has begun installing the first panels of wall system in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. The busiest border sector in the nation, the area is Border Patrol’s highest priority location for construction. FAIR reported this month that 69 miles of previously open border in the Laredo sector are ticketed for barricades.
Still, there’s a long, long way to go. USA Today noted that Texas has the largest contiguous unfenced stretch of border: more than 600 miles. The Lone Star State is home to an estimated 1.6 million illegal aliens.
SinceJanuary 2017, CBP has received $9.8 billion to install some 509 miles of wallsystem at various points along the southern border. The agency said lastOctober that it expected to have completed 450 miles by the end of 2020.
But according to its latest figures, CBP is 175 miles short of its projection, with a little more than four months remaining this year. If Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden replaces Trump in the White House, 2020 will mark the end of the line. Biden has vowed that “not another foot of wall” would be built on his watch.