2021 has been a record year for illegal border crossings. As of November, statistics show that there were 1.6 million “encounters” between border law enforcement and migrants during the year. In 2020, there were just over 400,000 during the same time period. Critics point to the Biden Administration’s lax enforcement of immigration laws as well as one of Joe Biden’s first actions as president – putting a stop to the building of the border wall begun during the Trump Administration.
Throughout 2021, border crossings have become increasingly troublesome. Drugs are coming across the border at an alarming rate; fentanyl especially is killing Americans at higher rate than COVID-19 deaths, particularly in those aged 18 – 45. In September, a host of Haitian migrants came across the border, and they were living under a bridge in Del Rio in horrid conditions. Just last week, Fox News reported the apprehension of a possible terrorist who was wearing a jacket resembling that of a first responder in the United States. A court order persuaded the Biden Administration to re-instate the Remain in Mexico policy in November.
With all the attention these border encounters are receiving, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced that he would use border funds to “protect border communities from physical dangers resulting from the the previous administration’s approach to border wall construction.”
The Department of Homeland Security said that the funds will be used for a number of issues, including erosion, completing access roads that have already been funded, and to improve drainage systems.
The border wall construction will resume in Yuma and Tucson, Arizona “border sectors” as well as in El Paso, Texas. However, no mention was made of completing wall construction in arguably the area where migrants tend to enter the United States – in areas around the Rio Grande River. It was in Del Rio, Texas where the Haitian migrants entered and were forced to camp out under a bridge. On Tuesday, a group of Haitian migrants announced they intended to file a lawsuit against the Biden Administration regarding their treatment by border patrol.
Ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Republican Rob Portman (OH), called the move to re-instating building the border wall “a step in the right direction.”
Portman called on the Biden Administration to not only close all the gaps left when Joe Biden directed the end of construction of the border wall in January 2021, but Portman further commented that the Biden Administration should install available technology in order to make the border more secure.
Even as Secretary Mayorkas announced that the gaps in the border wall would be filled, he also called on Congress to cancel any “remaining border wall funding.” In place of the physical border wall, Mayorkas asked that the funding be put toward “smarter border security measures.” Mayorkas said that these smart border security methods are more effective at keeping the southern border safe and secure.
Since June, Texas governor Greg Abbott has worked diligently to provide funding for a border wall at the Rio Grande Valley. In June, he pledged $250 million as a form of down payment toward constructing this section of the border wall. In September, he signed a bill that would provide $1.8 billion toward a physical wall in the Rio Grande Valley. Abbott has also sent the Texas National Guard to the border to assist local law enforcement in securing the border.