On Tuesday, Trump is expected to travel to Alamo, Texas, near the border, to mark the completion of more than 450 miles of wall — a trip that caters to the supporters who put him in office in 2016 despite heightening tensions nationwide and a raging pandemic.
The border wall, which Trump repeatedly cited over the last four years as an accomplishment, cost US taxpayers — not Mexico — billions and became emblematic of the President’s restrictionist immigration policies, which largely sealed the US off from immigrants and refugees.
On the eve of the visit, Mayor Jim Darling of neighboring McAllen, Texas, acknowledged that tensions are high. This will be Trump’s first public appearance since speaking on the National Mall last Wednesday, shortly before his supporters forced their way into the US Capitol.
Of the roughly 453 miles, the majority replaces old, dilapidated barriers with a new enhanced wall system, a marked difference from the fencing previously constructed in some regions. Forty-seven miles have gone up where no barriers previously existed, according to Customs and Border Protection.
In the waning days of Trump’s presidency, the White House is continuing to push relevant federal agencies to obligate funds available for the wall regardless of whether land has been obtained for construction, CNN has learned — a move seemingly intended to tie up funds prior to President-elect Joe Biden taking office.
As construction got underway, leadership at the Department of Homeland Security repeatedly rotated and those at the top were often in the position of placating the President’s whims on the border wall, according to a former DHS official, who cited the push to paint the wall black and add spikes despite not having operational value.
Trump’s wall will likely continue to be a point of contention into the new administration.
“Building a wall will do little to deter criminals and cartels seeking to exploit our borders,” Biden’s plan reads. “Instead of stealing resources from schools for military children and recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, Biden will direct federal resources to smart border enforcement efforts, like investments in improving screening infrastructure at our ports of entry, that will actually keep America safer.”