The Trump administration touted the completion of nearly 400 miles of border wall system along the U.S.-Mexico border in a ceremony staged days ahead of the presidential election.
“Without the president’s vision and dedication, we would not be here today to celebrate the construction of nearly 400 miles of new state-of-the-art border wall system,” said acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf during the event, held in McAllen, Texas, on Thursday.
The wall was a leading issue in the 2016 presidential election. President Trump vowed to put up 1,000 miles for $4 billion. At present, more than 800 miles have been funded for more than $15 billion, with half of it built.
In bills dating back to fiscal 2018, the Trump administration secured funding, including several billion dollars taken from the Pentagon and Treasury, to erect more than 730 miles of barrier along the southwest border. To date, more than 380 miles of wall have gone up in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Another 210 miles are under construction, and more than 150 miles are in the planning phases. DHS expects to reach 450 miles by Dec. 31.
The new wall up and down the 2,000-mile southern border stretches from 18 feet to 30 feet in height, and it comprises steel beams that are filled with concrete and rebar. The wall is see-through with four-inch spaces between each bar to allow Border Patrol agents to see through to the Mexico side.
In western Arizona and eastern California, 128 miles of new wall has gone up, including 38 of which is duplicate fencing. In San Diego, historically a region with the highest apprehension rates of illegal immigrants, a double barrier has pushed traffic out into the Pacific Ocean and to areas where agents are able to patrol better because busy areas have been better secured.
“In areas where the new border wall system has been deployed, we now decide where border crossings take place, not the cartels and not the smugglers,” Wolf said.
The border’s busiest region in South Texas has seen seven miles of wall go up and has dozens more planned. This region is one of the most difficult to build on because much land is privately owned and is located on a swampy area near the Rio Grande. Billions in funding has gone to all-weather roads that allow agents to drive up and down the border. Funding has also gone to drones, lighting, sensors in the ground that are triggered by foot traffic, and tunnel-building, as well as thermal cameras to detect activity.
Roughly 700 miles of border barrier went up during the George W. Bush administration, though half of it included a vehicle barrier that prevented cars from getting across but could not block people who wanted to cross.