- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Homeland Security took a victory lap Tuesday after announcing it had surpassed 450 miles of border wall erected on President Trump‘s watch, calling it a “historic” achievement.

The exact 450th mile was completed on New Year’s Eve, just in time to meet Mr. Trump‘s end-of-year goal, and the building has continued beyond that, officials said.

“When our critics said it couldn’t be done — we prevailed. When our critics threw up every roadblock — we prevailed,” said acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad F. Wolf.

Congress just approved another $1.375 billion in the fiscal 2021 spending bill for border infrastructure. Combined with what Capitol Hill had previously earmarked and what Mr. Trump had siphoned from Pentagon accounts, it totals more than $16 billion.

That’s enough to build 800 miles in total, including the 450 miles already in the can, said acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan.

Construction has picked up dramatically over the past year.

Over the first three years, less than 100 miles was erected. In 2020, CBP and the Army Corps of Engineers built at least 350 miles.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden has said he would halt construction, though he said he would resist demands from his left flank to tear down mileage already built.

But Mr. Morgan said by Jan. 19, CBP will have contracts for another 300 miles with which Mr. Biden will have to grapple.

Mr. Morgan also rejected suggestions that Mr. Biden won’t have to spend the money Congress just approved on border wall.

The law says the new $1.375 billion must go to border infrastructure projects, which some analysts have said means Mr. Biden could spend it on roads or border stations.

Mr. Morgan flatly rejected that.

He said the language in the new law is “almost identical” to what was in previous laws.

“Last year everybody knew the barrier system meant wall,” he said. “This year is no different. Everybody knows the barrier system meant wall.”

Both Mr. Morgan and Mr. Wolf took aim at critics who have complained about the construction, saying the president faced doubters at every step but remained committed to the project.

“A lot of folks in the mainstream media, a lot of critics, again and again, said we’d never get this done,” Mr. Morgan said. “We owe an incredible amount of thanks to this president and his administration. Without his unwavering support, unwavering commitment, we wouldn’t be here.”

When Mr. Trump took office, about 654 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border had a barrier of some kind. Of that, 354 miles were fencing and the other 300 miles were vehicle barriers that could stop a car, but allowed easy access on foot.

As of Monday, 701 miles of the border was protected by a barrier, and almost all of that — nearly 600 miles — is now fencing or wall.

There’s also 70 miles of secondary wall, set back from the primary wall up against the border. Most of that has been erected during the Trump administration, either in new places or as a replacement for old outdated models.

Arizona has been the biggest beneficiary of construction, with the Yuma sector erecting 107 miles and the Tucson sector erecting 114 miles.

The El Paso sector, which spans western Texas and New Mexico, accounts for at least 131 miles.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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