Homeland Security announced plans Thursday to complete sections of President Trump’s border wall in Yuma, Arizona, defending the new construction as a way to save illegal immigrants’ lives.
The four gaps were left in the wall when President Biden took office and shut down wall construction, looking to make good on his campaign promise not to build “another foot” of his predecessor’s marquee project.
But Homeland Security says it has concluded some of the halted projects were too essential to forgo — including the ones in Yuma.
The department, in a statement, cast the new construction as a way to protect illegal immigrants themselves from running risks by trying to run through the gaps.
“Due to the proximity to the Morelos Dam and the swift-moving Colorado River, this area presents safety and life hazard risks for migrants attempting to cross into the United States where there is a risk of drownings and injuries from falls,” the department said. “This area also poses a life and safety risk to first responders and agents responding to incidents in this area.”
The dam spans the Colorado River and has become a key crossing point for illegal immigrants, who then walk through one of the gaps in the wall on the U.S. side. Customs and Border Protection has released a video of migrants doing just that.
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In June, a 5-year-old migrant child drowned at that point in the river. The child’s mother told agents she had last seen her child near the dam.
Homeland Security said funding for the construction will come out of $2 billion or so in border wall money Congress allocated during the Trump administration, but which has sat idle since Mr. Biden took office.
The department didn’t give a timeline for construction and said environmental concerns will still have to be addressed.
Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly told local news that the first contracts will be done by the end of September.
Mr. Kelly, a Democrat, portrayed the new wall construction as critical to gaining control of the border.
“I’m glad that the Department of Homeland Security has listened to Arizona and is going to close these gaps,” he said.
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Mr. Kelly, who is facing a tough reelection battle this year, said he raised the gaps with Mr. Biden last year and had “numerous calls” with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over the issue.