by WorldTribune Staff, March 29, 2020
The Trump administration has completed 40 miles of border fencing since early February, according to Border Patrol data.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, amid his coronavirus duties last week, signed off on six waivers to speed wall construction in sections all across the U.S.-Mexico border. Additional contracts for new segments of the wall were also announced.
“Border security is national security,” said Rusty Payne, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, who said construction remains on track to meet President Donald Trump’s target. “We have completed 142 miles of new border wall system and we have another 197 miles under construction. In addition there are 414 miles in the pre-construction phase. We remain confident we will have 450 miles completed by the end of 2020.”
“The coronavirus has shut down much of the country, left Capitol Hill a ghost town and even sidelined aircraft carriers. But it hasn’t been able to dent construction of the border wall,” Stephen Dinan noted in a March 28 report for The Washington Times.
Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, said it makes sense to keep building the barrier.
“Today is not the time to play politics with the lives of U.S. citizens. Walls have proven to stop illegal entries into the United States, therefore they are an essential law enforcement resource which will undoubtedly help in reducing the spread of COVID-19,” Judd told The Washington Times.
“Before I came here, we weren’t into borders,” Trump said. “Now we’re up to almost 164 miles. Think of that: 164 miles of wall. Big, beautiful wall. And in those areas, it’s very, very tough to come in. We’ve been very tough on the borders. I mean, where we have the wall built, nobody is getting through. Now, they’re going around, but that’s a long trip. If they’re going around, that’s the way they get through.”
Jay Field, a spokesperson for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is overseeing the construction effort, said the Corps is exempt from coronavirus shutdown orders because they are engaged in essential national security work, but added they are taking the virus threat seriously.
“We are taking deliberate and prudent steps, following all government and CDC guidelines, to continue operations at the southern border,” Field said. “We are committed to fulfilling our responsibilities as a project-executing agency to help secure the nation’s southern border.”
As wall construction continues, the Trump administration has also taken steps to reduce the flow of people attempting to cross the border illegally.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) triggered a part of public health law that the administration is using to immediately turn back illegal immigrants who show up at the border. A Border Patrol official told Fox News that the law cut unauthorized crossings by 50 percent in its first day.
Last week, the Department of Homeland Security changed its asylum-seeker “Remain in Mexico” policy so migrants will stay in Mexico longer because of the coronavirus outbreak, the Washington Examiner reported.