OAN’s Brooke Mallory
3:18 PM – Tuesday, July 11, 2023
The Biden administration has discreetly begun filling in segments of unfenced areas along the southern border where Trump-era efforts were abruptly halted after President Joe Biden mounted a vicious campaign criticizing the notion of a wall.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Homeland Security is now halfway through filling in 129 holes in border wall projects after Biden suspended the remaining 300 miles of Trump-era wall construction when he took office in January 2021.
The decision, which was not promoted with photos or news conferences, represents a U-turn by the White House from its initial reaction of stopping wall building on Biden’s first day in office, which squandered billions of dollars in congressional financing and supplies for the wall.
Hundreds of openings have been closed in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas, where former President Donald Trump built more than 450 miles of 18-foot to 30-foot slatted steel slabs to make a wall. Despite these attempts, much of the 2,000-mile border has remained open since Trump left office.
“To date, DHS has authorized the completion of multiple life, safety, environmental, and other remediation activities, which include, among other activities, the closure of 129 gates and gaps across the Southwest Border. Of the 129 approved gates and gaps, 68 have been completed to date with an additional 50 anticipated for completion by September 30, 2023,” CBP said. “The remaining 11 are anticipated to be completed in Fiscal Year (FY) 2024.”
On day one, the Biden White House paused all wall-building efforts to evaluate if any additional construction was required. The administration reportedly decided that 129 holes should be filled and a spate of environmental problems, such as runoff, should be addressed in studies conducted in 2021 and 2022. However, the construction was sluggish to start.
“There never was any legitimate justification for waiting nearly 2 1/2 years to get around to doing construction that should have never stopped and that should have been completed by now,” said Ken Oliver, director of Right on Immigration at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. “It was a highly irresponsible and unlawful action by the Biden administration to halt construction of duly appropriated border wall funding in the first place.”
The gaps between projects that are being filled do not even come close to matching the 300 miles of additional barrier construction that was halted after Biden took office as president. However, the holes are now reportedly being filled using the money that was left over from Trump’s wall construction. The Biden administration has not stated how many miles the gap would cover.
In an August 2020 interview, Biden stated, “There will not be another foot of wall constructed on my administration, No. 1.”
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas had requested that the Department of Defense cancel all projects financed with the $10.5 billion in Pentagon funds that Trump allocated. $2 billion of the $10.5 billion was left unspent. Congress also provided an additional $5 billion on top of the $10.5 billion for border infrastructure.
The Biden administration claimed to have spent what was left of the money on other types of infrastructure, such as roads. However, many Republicans have disputed this claim.
The administration also said that the remaining funds will be utilized to build gates that allow cars to pass through, help finish or install drainage systems, complete permanent erosion control and slope stabilization measures, build roads along the border, and remove unwanted materials.
According to landowner and fourth-generation rancher Russell Johnson, one such gap in Deming that was a little larger than 20 feet and had been left open for 2 1/2 years was eventually closed in the last two weeks when CBP put a matching gate in the opening.
The El Paso area of the Border Patrol discovered more than 20 gaps where gates were required. The most recent available count for all projects in October 2022 shows that none of the gaps have been closed. Johnson’s new gate is now one of the very first.
“Significant progress has been made on construction for all the gaps, with two nearly finished and all four expected to be complete within two months,” a spokesperson for Kelly said in a statement. “This remains a priority for him, and he will continue pushing to have the construction finished as soon as possible.”
Immigrants attempting to enter Yuma were directed to areas with gaps, where Border Patrol agents were waiting. In theory, fewer holes would mean fewer people entering through them, but it may also divert people attempting to enter to other areas where there is no wall.
Yuma border wall projects, for example, may have had various segments finished at different dates. If wall projects were canceled before they were finished, it would have left gaps in the total project that may have been 10 feet, a few hundred feet, or many miles wide. Yuma Mayor Doug Nicholls described the efforts as an “important first step to getting this border crisis under control.”
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