CALEXICO, California—Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen unveiled two new miles of fencing on Oct. 26, and declared it the first new section of President Donald Trump’s border wall.
Nielsen addressed the Trump administration’s efforts to fortify the border while standing next to a newly constructed 30-foot fence in California. Before she spoke, two workers wearing welding masks affixed a plaque to the barrier with the names of President Donald Trump and several high-ranking officials, to commemorate what the administration calls the completion of the first phase of his border wall.
Nielsen’s trip to the border came after the Pentagon approved a request for additional troops at the southern border, expected to total at least 800 and possibly more than 1,000.
“We are looking at every possible way within the legal construct that we have to make sure that those who don’t have the legal right to come to this country do not come in,” Nielsen said.
The president has stepped up his focus on immigration in the days leading up to the Nov. 6 elections that will determine which party controls Congress. One focus is a caravan of migrants heading north through Mexico that is about 1,000 miles away but dwindling in size.
“I called up the military,” Trump said at a meeting of young black conservative leaders. “We’re not letting them in. They ought to go back now because we’re not.”
The federal government recently completed construction on a two-mile section of fencing that’s 30 feet tall. Nielsen called it a significant accomplishment to keep illegal border crossers out. The structure is separate from a concrete wall prototype that the government has built near San Diego as part of Trump’s signature campaign promise during his 2016 White House campaign.
“Let me be clear: Walls work,” Nielsen said.
New details also began to emerge Friday about the military deployment on the border.
A Defense Department official said the mission is authorized from Oct. 30 to Dec. 15 and will operate in border areas of California, Arizona, and Texas.
In a brief written statement, the Pentagon gave several examples of assistance they would provide. These include barricades and fencing, helicopters and airplanes to move Border Patrol personnel, and medical teams to triage and treat patients and prepare them for commercial transport. It also will provide personal protective gear and temporary housing for Border Patrol personnel.
Trump earlier this year ordered the deployment of National Guard members to the U.S.-Mexico border to respond to a spike in illegal border crossings. However, those members remain under the control of the governors of the states where they’re positioned, and their activities are limited to supportive roles, such as providing surveillance.
There are already about 2,000 National Guard troops on the border.
By Elliot Spagat and Jill Colvin