Biden administration to fill gaps in Arizona border wall

Biden administration to fill gaps in Arizona border wall

The White House is completing more sections of former President Donald Trump’s border wall, and the Department of Homeland Security is closing four gaps in the barrier near Yuma, Arizona, which have become a major thoroughfare for migrants.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Thursday authorized Customs and Border Protection to seal vents near the Morelos Dam west of downtown Yuma.

The department said the area “poses safety and life risks to migrants attempting to enter the United States, where there is a risk of drowning and injury from falls.” This area also poses a life and safety risk to first responders and agents responding to incidents in this area.”

The dam is on a section of the boundary that runs north-south along the Colorado River before turning into an east-west stretch at the California-Arizona state line.

Border officials have reported 235,230 encounters with migrants in the Yuma sector of border police since October 1 last year. Only the Del Rio (326,177) and Rio Grande Valley (377,194) sectors have reported more encounters over the same period.

One of the gaps in the wall near the Morelos Dam in Yuma, Arizona.
One of the gaps in the wall near the Morelos Dam in Yuma, Arizona.
AFP via Getty Images

President Biden ordered a halt to construction of the border wall shortly after taking office in January 2021. While the move was praised by liberal activists, it also left holes in the barrier that critics — including Biden’s Democrats — say have been exploited by individual migrants and human traffickers smuggling groups of people across the border.

Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) commended DHS Thursday for filling in the openings.

“The Morelos Dam area has been an operational challenge for Border Patrol agents for too long to properly secure the border and protect our communities,” Kelly said in a statement.

Migrants climb a drain at the Morelos Dam in April 2022.
Migrants climb a drain at the Morelos Dam in April 2022.
James Keivom

“I’m glad the Department of Homeland Security has listened to Arizona and will fill these gaps,” Kelly added. “This is a step forward and I will continue to work to ensure Arizona has the tools needed for a safe and orderly process at the border, including fences and barriers where they make sense.”

Yuma Mayor Doug Nicholls, a Republican, also welcomed the move, calling it “an important first step in bringing this border crisis under control, assisting our law enforcement, and keeping border communities safe.”

The project will be funded from DHS fiscal 2021 funds approved during the Trump administration.

Border officials have reported 235,230 encounters with migrants in the Yuma sector of border police since October 1 last year.
Border officials have reported 235,230 encounters with migrants in the Yuma sector of border police since October 1 last year.
James Keivom

Earlier this month, the department approved similar border wall construction to replace a “deteriorated barrier” near Friendship Park transboundary in Imperial Beach, California.

Last December, Mayorkas approved funding to fill unfinished vacant lots that would meet “living, safety, environmental and sanitation requirements for border barrier projects” in California, Arizona and Texas.

The move to shut down openings in Yuma comes as a record number of migrants have attempted to enter the US.

June was the fourth straight month that border officials encountered more than 200,000 migrants (207,416). It also increased the total number of stops recorded since October 1 to 1,746,119 – the most in a fiscal year since 1960.

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