The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Thursday announced 400 miles of completed U.S.-Mexico border wall construction and said the Trump administration is “well on its way” to having 450 miles of new border wall deployed by the end of the year.
Calling the barrier a “critical component in gaining operational control of the border,” DHS said in a statement that areas where barriers were deployed saw drops in illegal drug, border crossings, and human smuggling activities.
“Neglected, easily compromised, and sparsely constructed, the border fence concept needed a reinvestment in 2017,” DHS stated. “From day one, President Trump prudently recognized that America must have an effective border wall system that delivers first-of-its-kind capabilities to the men and women of the USBP [U.S. Customs and Border Protection].”
DHS said that on Oct. 23 there were 386 miles of new border wall built, with construction averaging around 10 miles per week of completion.
In a ceremony in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley on Thursday, attended by top Trump administration officials, DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf said, “While this is an important milestone, we are building even more wall. Currently, we have nearly 210 more miles under construction, and we expect to complete 450 miles by the end of the year.”
The cost of construction is estimated at around $15 billion, with two-thirds coming from military funding. Congress has funded about $5 billion for border barriers under Trump, including more than $3 billion in the last two fiscal years for construction in the Rio Grande Valley and around Laredo, Texas.
Border Patrol officials said the new fencing, much of which has replaced much smaller vehicle barriers, provides more deterrence against human smugglers and people trying to elude capture.
“We are shutting down illegal border crossing points with the new border wall system,” said U.S. Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott. “For too long, the smugglers had the upper hand in choosing where and when they smuggle their contraband, and that will no longer be the case.”
The construction also includes roads, lighting, and cameras that help agents detect illegal activity. Border Patrol Deputy Chief Raul Ortiz told The Associated Press that the wall is a factor in helping keep the border secure.
“For us, regardless of who’s sitting in the White House, I think giving the agents the tools and the resources are going to be awfully important,” Ortiz said. “This infrastructure is important to us doing everything we can to control that border.”
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has vowed to halt border wall construction if he wins the race for the White House.
Some critics of the wall have bemoaned environmental damage caused by construction.
“We’re seeing this administration just blow up anything in their path in order to build an additional mile of wall,” said Laiken Jordahl, a field campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund. “None of this is about border security. It’s about inflating this mile count in order to make Trump look tough for reelection.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.