CBP touts completion of 450 miles of border wall system

Acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Mark Morgan gives a speech in front of a new section of the border wall on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

As the Trump administration counts down its last days before the new administration takes over, U.S. Customs and Border Protection celebrated the completion of more than 450 miles of new border wall system along the southwest border.

A little more than two months after he was in the Rio Grande Valley to commemorate the completion of the 400th mile, CBP Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan marked the completion of more than 450 miles of new border wall system Tuesday during a call with the media.

Morgan said that on Dec. 31, contractors had completed the 450th mile of new border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, stretching from California to Texas.

Morgan said the new 450 miles encompass construction along the border in San Diego, and El Centro, California, Yuma, and Tucson, Arizona; El Paso, and the Rio Grande Valley.

Morgan called the milestone historic for the administration and something that would not have been possible without President Trump.

“… It stands as a reminder of our unwavering commitment to do everything that we can to ensure we have the tools to protect our national and economic security,” Morgan said during the nearly hour-long session. “It should serve to remind us all that borders matter, and the failure to secure them has consequences for every town, city and state in this great nation.”

Trump made border wall construction along the U.S.-Mexico border a main element of his run for president in 2015.

Morgan, when asked Tuesday how many of the approximately 450 miles of border wall system were actually new, as opposed to replacement wall for existing structures, he said he considers all of the wall “new.”

“… My answer has, and will remain the same, that every mile of wall system that’s going in the ground, every mile of about 450 miles of wall system is a brand new mile of wall system,” Morgan said.

Despite this statement, and according to CBP’s own status report on the border wall system, of the 452 miles completed to date, 372 miles is replacement for primary and secondary “dilapidated and/or outdated designs,” that already existed along the border — making it roughly only 80 miles of “new wall” where a wall did not exist before along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Morgan, in addition to touting the wall, said that the Trump administration was successful in its  use of other resources to maintain border security, despite what opponents may say about the administration.

“It’s not one or the other; it’s all,” Morgan said when asked about the use of barriers as opposed to technology.

Morgan underscored the administration’s focus on using technology to assist its personnel out in the field, including the use of state of the art technology like non-intrusive inspection systems at ports of entry, automated surveillance towers and other resources to fortify security at the border.

“…Yes, we need technology. Yes, we need personnel. And yes, we need the wall,” Morgan said. “We need all three elements of that multilayer strategy to be effective, to be able to do our job, to safeguard our country.”

The outgoing CBP acting commissioner also talked about recent discussions with the incoming Biden administration, characterizing the meetings as “productive,” but warned that if the Biden administration intend to implement “open border” policies, it could lead to a “crisis” on the southwest border — an often repeated line by Morgan and others in the Trump administration.

“… What I heard from the folks at CBP, the experts that participated in the briefings, has been very positive,” Morgan said. “They felt the questions being asked were good questions, were informed questions, were the right questions, and what I’m being told is they really felt that the briefing team were actually listening and hearing what was being discussed.

“Here’s another reason I feel confident. … They’ve already walked-back what they were going to do; Mr. Biden himself said, he’s not going to do what he promised on Day 1, because he knew that it would create a crisis — that was very good to hear but it doesn’t alleviate the concerns that I have. It’s simply kicking the crisis can down the road, there’s got to be real reform to what their ‘open border’ strategies are.”

During his campaign, Joe Biden promised to end the Remain in Mexico policy on “Day 1,” but Biden recently said creating a system to process thousands of asylum seekers could take months.

Last week, the president-elect said he would keep his promise to eliminate the Trump administration’s restrictive asylum policies but at a much slower pace than originally stated due to pending staffing and funding — despite wishes from immigration advocates that he end the program immediately.