Acting Customs and Border Protection Chief Mark Morgan said he isn’t sure whether the U.S.-Mexico border wall will be completed by the end of President Donald Trump’s first term in office.
During the infancy of his 2016 campaign, Trump made a promise that he would construct a barrier along the Southern Border. While in office, the president said he would build 450 miles of the wall by 2021.
“It’s hard right now to say whether we’re still going to meet that goal,” Morgan told the New York Times. “But I’m confident we’re going to be close.”
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf in November said a significant amount of the wall will be built by the end of next year.
“We are on track to build 450 to 500 miles of new wall by the end of 2020,” he told reporters at the time.
Carmen Qualia, an assistant chief with the Border Patrol, told NPR that construction hasn’t been as fast as they’d like.
“[Trump] said, ‘Hey, here’s my deadline, here’s what I need you to do.’ So we’re gonna continue to work towards meeting that deadline,” said Qualia. “And we’re either going to make it or not.”
In September, Defense Secretary Mark Esper approved the transfer of $3.6 billion from military construction projects to construct about 175 miles of the wall. Earlier this year, Trump declared a state of emergency about the border situation, where hundreds of thousands of migrants have illegally crossed into the United States so far in 2019.
But as a number of reports have noted, it’s been difficult for the federal government to acquire property from private landowners along the border.
Department of Justice lawyers have filed three lawsuits this month seeking to take property from landowners. On Tuesday, lawyers moved to seize land in one case immediately before a scheduled court hearing in February, according to The Associated Press. The agency says it’s ready to file many more petitions to take private land in the coming weeks.
Qualia added that Border Patrol agents want a tall wall with sensors, cameras, and lights.
“We’ve been asking for these tools, this technology … the roads,” Qualia said. “And if it takes longer, it takes longer.”
About 162 miles of border wall is expected to go through southern Texas, according to the New York Times report. Some 140 miles of that will be located on private property, but so far, only three miles has been acquired by the federal government since 2017.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.