On the campaign trail, Joe Biden told Americans that “not another foot” of the border wall constructed during the Trump Administration would be built. However, on Thursday, the president approved a plan that would complete a portion of the southern border wall in Yuma, Arizona.
The approved plan will allow for four sections of the wall to be completed. Currently, the area is one of the most frequented when individuals try to cross the U.S. – Mexican border.
Last August, Pew Research reported that “migrant encounters” were at a two-decade high; in 2021 alone, there were at least two million migrants who cross the southern U.S. border. This number does not include what some refer to as “gotaways,” who are never apprehended by the Border Patrol or other law enforcement as they enter the country.
In June 2022, the CBP reported encounters with 207,416 “unique individuals” at the border. The number of unaccompanied minors is increasing; in June, CBP reports 15,271 children crossed the border alone. Of that number at least 752 were in CBP custody on average during the month of June.
For fiscal year 2022, more than two million migrants had crossed the southern border in June. The fiscal year will not end until October 2022.
In Yuma alone, border patrol agents have encountered more than 160,000 migrants between January 1, 2022 and the end of June.
Secretary of the Homeland Security Department, Alejandro Mayorkas gave approval for the construction. A statement from DHS said that the plan to complete construction will “deploy modern, effective border measures” as well as “improve safety and security along the Southwest Border.”
Funding for completion of the four sections will come from the Department of Homeland Security’s 2021 budget.
Officials say that the number of migrants coming through Yuma alone has increased by four-fold in the last year. While the Texas border gets a great deal of media attention due to migrants attempting to cross the Rio Grande, Yuma has seen exponential growth in the number of migrants coming across their area of the Southwest.
Governor Greg Abbott has worked to curb migration through the Del Rio and Rio Grande Valley by beefing up law enforcement officers at the border. He’s also proposed completing the wall with state monies. Abbott has also sued the Biden Administration regarding the immigration situation in his state. Other than Del Rio and the Rio Grande Valley, Yuma has the highest number of migrants to cross the southern border when compared to other border locations.
President Donald Trump began construction of the border wall in Yuma as a means of keeping his campaign promise to “build the wall.” However, once the Biden Administration took the White House, all construction on the border wall stopped.
The decision to complete construction on the Yuma sector likely comes after Arizona Senator – and fellow Democrat – Mark Kelly called on the Biden Administration to finish construction of the wall in his state.
Republicans have made similar calls, all of which have been unheeded.
Joe Biden often used the unfinished border wall as an example of how different his administration would be when compared to President Trump’s. However, even many Democrats have begun calling on the president to take action to combat the influx of migrants at the border. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) has been to the border multiple times in the last few months. She says that fentanyl is being brought across the border, and it eventually ends up in her state, where overdoses are becoming more common.
Senator Mark Kelly has also been vocal about getting the border under control. Recently, Democratic mayors Eric Adams (NY) and Muriel Bowser (DC) have sounded the alarm on migrants being bused to their cities and released.
Chiefly, however, it’s been Republicans who have sounded the alarm regarding the southern border. Aside of Governor Abbott and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) took a group of Republican Congresspeople to the border in April for a personal look at what is happening there.
In the past, President Biden has called Trump’s border policy “xenophobic.”