President Trump toured a new construction of the wall on the southern Arizona border Tuesday, marking more than 200 miles of wall built, as he seeks to demonstrate that he has delivered on what became a controversial 2016 central election promise.
“So my administration has done more than any other administration in history to secure our southern border, our border has never been more secure,” he said at a roundtable in Yuma, Arizona, before touring the wall.
PROGRESS ON THE BORDER WALL: WHAT HAS BEEN BUILT SO FAR?
Trump joined senior officials at the roundtable, including Acting Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Mark Morgan and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf. Then he went on to sign part of the wall.
Then-presidential candidate Trump repeatedly promised during his 2016 campaign that “I will build a great wall on our southern border and make Mexico pay for that wall” to curb the entry of illegal immigrants and drugs in the US vote was one of the pieces central to his successful presidential candidacy.
But the effort to build it was hit by a series of political, legal and funding problems, and even led to a government shutdown last year over the issue. But after winning a court battle over efforts to reappropriate Pentagon funds, construction accelerated this year.
Trump has promised to reach 450 miles of construction by the end of the year, and as of Tuesday it hit 216 miles. While it remains to be seen whether it will achieve that goal, Morgan told Fox News last month that construction of the wall had accelerated since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in March.
“We have to know who and what is coming across our borders, to our borders,” he said Tuesday. “And we have to be able to defend that. And with each new mile of new wall system, CBP’s operational capacity, specifically Border Patrol, increases. ”
While much of that construction has been done in places where there were already existing structures, officials have been interested to point out that there is a big difference between this wall and the old landing pad style structures that could easily be driven or climbed .
THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE BORDER WALL HAS ACCELERATED BETWEEN THE CORONAVIRUS CRISIS, SAYS THE HEAD OF CBP
The construction of the wall, along with other measures to combat illegal immigration, such as the “Stay in Mexico” policy and agreements with countries south of the border, has coincided with a sharp drop in border arrests from the highs of the spring of last year.
It is one of several immigration-related efforts the administration has made in recent days that could help rally the Trump base before November. On Monday, he signed an executive order restricting guest worker programs until the end of the year.
On Tuesday, he touted his administration’s efforts to crack down on illegal immigration since last year’s border crisis.
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“Over the past two months we have seen the fewest number of illegal border crossings in many years,” he said. “Illegal immigration is down 84 percent since this time last year. Illegal crossings from Central America are down 97 percent. ”
After his official White House stops along the border in Yuma, the president heads to Phoenix to speak at a Student convention for Trump, a youth group dedicated to the reelection of the president who joined the conservative organization Turning Point Action.
Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.