YUMA, Arizona — In his second trip to the U.S.-Mexico border in two months, President Trump touted to supporters that his administration has completed nearly 300 miles of border fence since he took office.
Trump announced at an outdoor rally in Yuma Tuesday afternoon that his administration would pass 300 miles of fencing in a matter of weeks. He told the crowd packed inside an airport hangar on a 110-degree day that builders are “setting records” with the sudden surge in the rate they are installing 18- to 30-foot-tall steel bollard beams across the four states that line the southern border.
At present, the Army Corps of Engineers and its subcontracted builders are putting up 10 miles of barrier per week, and sometimes, 2 miles of it per day.
“Those are anti-climb plates at the top,” Trump said during a private walk-through of an 18-foot-tall fence in the hangar. “You see these guys climbing up with drugs on their back … They say … Let’s take a pass on that.”
“They don’t come in like they used to. Human trafficking, I think, [we’re] down 95%,” Trump told the estimated 500 to 700 people at the rally, including dozens of Border Patrol and union officials in the crowd, most sporting Trump hats.
However, the number of people arrested at the southern border for illegally entering the United States from Mexico has soared since April, despite the Trump administration‘s attempt to curtail illegal migration amid the coronavirus pandemic. In July, Border Patrol agents on the southern border arrested nearly 39,000 people for unlawfully crossing. Arrests have increased 237% since April, the first full month that agents began immediately expelling people into Mexico after taking them into custody. The numbers are down from 132,000 arrests in May 2019, which was the highest rate in recent years after a surge of Central American families traveled to the border.
Trump claimed the newly constructed wall has kept the “China plague” from crossing into the U.S. from Mexico, adding that “California is actually very happy that we built the wall.” Despite the president’s coronavirus concerns, rallygoers were not able to socially distance from others at the event.
During Trump’s visit to southwestern Arizona on June 23, the city’s mayor, Doug Nicholls, told Trump that if the 113 miles of new border barrier had not been installed along the border with Mexico and the border crisis that unfolded last year happened today, the coronavirus pandemic may have had a hugely negative impact on his city’s 97,000 residents. The Yuma region went from 17,000 arrests in 2017 to 68,000 in 2019. But crossings in the fiscal year 2020 are down 70% to date compared to the same period last year.
Trump defended the Border Patrol law enforcement organization from Democratic attacks that police are racist.
“Half of all Border Patrol agents are Hispanic. Nobody better understands the border than Hispanics,” Trump said in the rally. “They don’t want bad people coming into the country taking their jobs, taking their homes.”
Trump listed his administration’s achievements, noting caravans of migrants from Central American countries “don’t come up here any more” as a result of withholding foreign aid in 2019. He revived a line first spoken at his campaign announcement in New York City in 2015, telling the crowd that “bad people,” including “murderers” and “rapists,” were trying to illegally enter the U.S.
“More important than these numbers is that we ended catch and release,” Trump said. “They say, ‘Come back in four years.'”
The Trump administration has put up more border wall during the coronavirus pandemic than at any similar block of time in the nearly three and a half years the president has been in office. Since March 16, the Monday after Trump declared a national emergency, the federal government has completed 150 more miles of border fence at various parts of the U.S.-Mexico border. It is up from 139 miles of fence that builders installed as of mid-March.
More than 660 miles of fencing has been funded to date. Most will replace inferior and dilapidated barriers that are easy to climb over. Acting CBP Commissioner Morgan said in June that the administration will have 450 miles of wall in the ground by the end of 2020, though Trump said it would be “very close to 500” by that time. As a candidate, Trump said he would build 1,000 miles of “wall” for $4 billion. As of the latest budget request this year, the Trump administration has been given or seized $18.4 billion for the wall.
The 2,000-mile southern border stretches from the Gulf of Mexico in southern Texas to the Pacific Ocean in southwestern California. Roughly 700 miles of the border had some type of fencing or barrier before Trump took office in January 2017. Half was tall, steel fencing, and half was just 4 feet tall.
Source: Washington Examiner: At US-Mexico border, Trump says 300 miles of wall nearly complete