The Department of Defense awarded two contracts worth nearly $1 billion on April 9 for the construction of border walls in New Mexico and Arizona.
The department awarded $789 million to SLSCO Ltd., a builder based in Galveston, Texas, to replace a border wall in Santa Teresa, New Mexico. The department also awarded $187 million to Barnard Construction Co. Inc., a builder based in Bozeman, Montana, to replace pedestrian barriers in Yuma, Arizona. Both projects should be completed by October 2020.
According to a statement from the Pentagon, both contracts will be paid with Army funds. The statement didn’t specify whether the funds came from the $1.4 billion approved by Congress, the $3.1 billion shifted from other departments, or the $3.6 billion allocated for border wall construction via the emergency declaration by President Donald Trump. The Pentagon didn’t immediately respond to a request for clarification.
Santa Teresa, where the $789 million section of wall will be built, is part of the El Paso border sector, which has seen the sharpest increase in crossings. From October to March, apprehensions of illegal aliens in the El Paso sector grew 1,670 percent for family units, 333 percent for unaccompanied minors, and 60 percent for single adults, compared to the same period in 2018, according to the Border Patrol.
Agents working the El Paso sector apprehended 35,898 unaccompanied alien minors, 53,565 migrants traveling as families, and 9,933 single alien adults in the six months before March 31.
The Yuma border sector, where the $187 million border wall will be built, has experienced a 273 percent increase in illegal border crossings by migrants traveling as families from October to March compared to the same period a year earlier.
Border Patrol agents in the Yuma sector apprehended 3,679 unaccompanied alien children, 24,194 aliens traveling with a family member, and 3,520 single alien adults in the six months before the end of March.
During his campaign, Trump promised to build a wall on the border with Mexico. Despite staunch opposition from Democrats in Congress, he has secured more than $8 billion for wall construction this year.
Virtually all construction is occurring in sections of the border where older walls no longer meet Border Patrol’s operational requirements.
“We’ve built a lot of wall. A lot of wall. And it’s new wall,” Trump told reporters at the White House on April 10.
“You know, when we rip down an old wall and then replace it, it’s called a ‘new wall.’ And that’s what we’ve done. A lot of wall is going up. And every place we build the wall, it’s less and less,” the president added, referring to the decline in illegal border crossings in sections where walls have gone up.
The White House is in the midst of reshuffling the senior leadership of its immigration agencies. The leadership changes are part of Trump’s plan for a tougher approach to immigration.
The president said on April 10 that migrants are drawn to the United States because of the great economy and loopholes in the immigration system. The sharp increase in family units illegally crossing the border is largely attributed to a patchwork of policies which force immigration authorities to release family units into the interior of the country before their asylum claim are adjudicated.