Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said the United States is still on schedule to build between 400 and 450 miles of the new border wall or border “capability” by the end of 2020.
During a White House press conference with President Donald Trump on April 1, Wolf said his agency is building “miles of the wall every day” despite the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus, pandemic. Reports have stated that Homeland Security, which oversees the Customs and Border Protection agency, is persisting in building the wall.
“We’re up to over 150” miles of wall built along the southern border, he said during a news conference. “We’re continuing to build new miles of wall. And a lot of folks ask about replacement wall or new miles? It’s a new capability on the southwest border that we haven’t had before.”
Wolf said that the border wall allows Border Patrol agents “to focus elsewhere on parts of the border that are very difficult to patrol, so we can use our resources in a different way.”
The wall “includes not only the physical infrastructure but the cameras, the roads, the lightings, the fiber optic cables.” The agency is on the “mark to meet 400, 450 miles by the end of the calendar year.”
During the news conference, Trump said that 161 miles of the border wall have been constructed so far.
“Nobody has seen anything like it. That’s how good it works. And the other side knew it worked that well,” Trump said, referring to Democrats. “Everybody, because everybody was for it five years ago. All of a sudden, they changed.”
A spokesperson for the Border Patrol told The Washington Times earlier this week that wall construction remains on track to meet the target set by the White House, echoing Wolf’s prediction.
“We have completed 142 miles of new border wall system, and we have another 197 miles under construction. In addition, there are 414 miles in the pre-construction phase. We remain confident we will have 450 miles completed by the end of 2020,” spokesman Rusty Payne told the paper.
Trump said the wall could have an impact on stemming the spread of the CCP virus, which causes the disease COVID-19, inside the United States.
“Now we have got to focus on drugs and the drugs come in from different methods, and we have the best people at sea anywhere in the world, so we will have a tremendous impact on drugs,” Trump said. “But one of the other things we will also have an impact, we think, on the coronavirus.”
Some activists supporting immigrant rights, however, said that the wall construction is a distraction amid the pandemic or could even, in some cases, facilitate the spread of the CCP virus.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said virus shutdown orders don’t apply because his agency is engaged in essential national security work.
“In the border communities we represent, these extraordinary actions by the federal government are quite literally endangering the lives of border residents,” said Tricia Cortez, executive director of the Rio Grande International Study Center, according to The Washington Times.