Almost three years in, Trump administration officials said Thursday that 78 miles of wall has been built along the border between the United States and Mexico but all of it so far has been to replace barriers that existed in the same spot previously.
In a briefing at the White House, the acting head of the Customs and Border Protection Mark Morgan said construction of walls on open land is just now starting but being hampered by lawsuits and land title issues.
Acting Customs and Border Protection commissioner Mark Morgan admits 70 miles of 'new' wall is replacing old barriers. pic.twitter.com/oK3TlqbZV4— Luis Velarde (@luivelarde) November 14, 2019
“Right now, the 78 miles that have been built have been built where there was an existing form of barrier,” Morgan said. “We just started breaking ground in RGV [Rio Grande Valley], where we’re building miles of new wall where there has been no structure there at all.
“Every mile of wall that is being built is a new mile of wall,” Morgan said.
In a tweet earlier this week, the head of the U.S. Border Patrol said 81 miles of wall has been constructed so far and 155 additional miles are currently under construction.
Border Wall System update:— USBPChief (@USBPChief) November 11, 2019
▫️ 81 miles completed
▫️ 155 miles under construction
▫️ 273 miles in pre-construction pic.twitter.com/ghFfoMxVgg
During the 2016 campaign, President Donald Trump made immigration a key component of his candidacy and promised to break ground on a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border on his first day in office.
Earlier this week, The Washington Post reported that White House officials want to set up webcams along the border to live-stream construction of new sections of the wall in order to blunt criticism that the president has so far failed to deliver on his signature campaign promise.
At Thursday’s briefing, Morgan also said arrests of illegal immigrants at the border have declined 70% since they peaked in May at 133,000. During that peak, officers were arresting around 5,000 people a day. Now, the number is down to 1,300. A total of 42,000 people were arrested during the month of October, he said.
Morgan said that with the help of Mexico and the northern Central American nations of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, “we have initiated a network of initiatives, policies, and of regulations to stem the flow of the migration. Together, we are approaching this as the regional crisis that it is, and we have seen incredible success.”