What will become of Trump’s border wall? – By The Week Staff (The Week) / Dec 13 2020
In its final weeks, the administration is rushing to complete more of its signature border barriers. How much got built? Here’s everything you need to know:
How long is the wall today?
President Trump inherited 654 miles of border structure along America’s 1,900-mile border with Mexico. Over four years, he’s constructed 415 miles, although of that total, only about 25 miles cover areas that had no previous barriers. The rest replaced or reinforced existing structures. In the most heavily fortified places, the barrier consists of two walls of concrete and steel bollards up to 30 feet high separated by a paved road. In recent months, the pace of work has surged. Right now, 11 private contractors under the auspices of the Army Corps of Engineers are working around the clock to add at least 50 miles of wall in California, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before Trump leaves office. To maintain the pace, the administration has waived dozens of regulations regarding endangered species and Native American burial sites. Portions of once protected saguaro cactus forests have been cleared, and communities’ access to the Rio Grande and canals has been cut off. In Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, crews were blasting in a mountainous area known as the final resting place of Apache warriors who died in battle. “The heartbreaking thing is we’re watching them detonate these areas that will never be finished,” says Laiken Jordahl of the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity in Arizona. He calls it “a true desecration of indigenous land.”
Why is Trump so focused on adding to the wall?
Trump started his 2015 campaign with a promise to build “a big, beautiful wall” on the 2,000-mile-long border with Mexico and make Mexico foot the bill. The idea ascended to mythical status among his supporters, becoming a totem for nearly everything that he stood for: “America First,” reduced immigration, closed borders. When Trump leaves office, he believes, the wall he did succeed in building will stand as a monument to his presidency — a kind of anti–Statue of Liberty.
What will Biden do?
President-elect Joe Biden has said “there will not be another foot of wall constructed in my administration,” although he’s indicated that he has no plans to tear down what’s been built already. Biden has said he prefers “smart” border security achieved by installing surveillance systems, sensors, and lighting, rather than barriers. Nonetheless, the Trump administration continues to clear land for wall that may never be built. Some of the most invasive construction is now being conducted in New Mexico’s remote Guadalupe Canyon, 30 miles from the nearest town of Douglas, as blasting crews carve a path through the rock. The area, according to a World Wildlife Fund report, includes some of the “most endangered and critical habitats in North America.” Diana Hadley, whose family farm encompasses much of the canyon, called the construction “heartbreaking,” and also “totally pointless” because so few migrants cross in the area.