Originally Published in USA Today
Rafael Carranza - January 12, 2021
TUCSON, Ariz. – President Donald Trump is scheduled to make his final visit in office to the U.S.-Mexico border this week, where he is expected to tout one of his signature campaign promises, the construction of more than 450 miles of border barriers under his administration.
Trump will visit the city of Alamo, located in Texas' Rio Grande Valley. That stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border is the busiest corridor for human smuggling among the Border Patrol's nine sectors.
The Rio Grande Valley remains a major focus of border wall construction, especially in areas that previously did not have any barriers. However, construction efforts here have been slow compared to other sections of the border, for two reasons.
The first is that much of land along the border is private, forcing the federal government to file condemnation cases against landowners, a process that can take years. Secondly, Congress approved restrictions on funding it appropriated to prevent construction in certain areas of the Rio Grande Valley, including historical sites and protected wildlife areas.
Nonetheless, the Trump administration pushed ahead, completing its goal of finishing construction of 450 miles by the end of 2020, at estimated costs of nearly $16 billion from the military and U.S. taxpayers.
How many barriers have been built?
Customs and Border Protection, the agency that oversees wall construction efforts at the U.S.-Mexico border, said crews completed 452 miles of new barriers by the end of 2020.
In a call with reporters last week, Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan said federal contractors are averaging between 1.5 and two miles of new barriers per day, with the scheduled completion of about 475 miles by the time President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20.
"This historic accomplishment, it doesn't just stand tall as a simple reminder of promises made to the American people and promises kept," Morgan said. "But it stands as a reminder of our wavering commitment to do everything that we can to ensure that we have the tools to protect our national and economic security."
Construction mainly has focused on lands the federal government already owns in Arizona, California and New Mexico. According to a breakdown provided by Customs and Border Protection last week, construction crews have built:
- 46 miles in the San Diego sector, which encompasses all of San Diego County, California
- 31 miles in the El Centro sector, which covers most of Imperial County, California
- 107 miles in the Yuma sector, which includes all of Yuma County, Arizona, and a small portion of Imperial County, California
- 114 miles in the Tucson sector, which covers Pima, Santa Cruz and Cochise counties in Arizona
- 131 miles in the El Paso sector, which encompasses the entire New Mexico border with Mexico, plus El Paso and Hudspeth counties in Texas
- 17 miles in the Rio Grande Valley sector, which includes Cameron, Hidalgo and Starr counties in Texas
Most of the construction has replaced outdated or aging fencing, such as 4-foot permanent vehicle barriers with 30-foot bollard fencing. Construction includes new roads, lighting and sensors to help agents better patrol the areas of new fencing.
CBP has not publicly disclosed how many miles of new wall have been built in areas of the border that previously did not have any barriers. However, at least the 17 miles that CBP said have been completed in the Rio Grande Valley sector are in areas that previously had no barriers.
What are the construction costs?
As the Trump administration comes to a close on Jan. 20, Customs and Border Protection said they have secured enough funding for the construction of approximately 800 miles of barriers. But not all of that money has been awarded yet.
The agency has not disclosed how much funding they have secured for wall construction. However, all of the money comes from taxpayer funds either set aside by Congress, or that the Trump administration has redirected from other sources within the federal government.
None of the funding has come from Mexico, as Trump repeatedly promised while on the 2016 campaign trail, and even continued to assert at times while in office.
The Arizona Republic, part of the USA TODAY Network, estimates that the Trump administration has secured about $16.3 billion for border wall construction, based on congressional appropriations, reprogramming notices and contract award data.
Congress has allocated $5.8 billion to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security since Fiscal Year 2017, Trump's first in office, for the explicit purpose of building new barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.