McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Five days before the presidential election, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf returned to South Texas on Thursday to commemorate the Trump administration’s 400 miles of newly built border wall on the Southwest border.
Wolf was flanked by U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan, and U.S. Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott, and dozens of law enforcement agents from various agencies as he perused the shiny new black and concrete 32-foot-tall wall and espoused its virtues saying it helps to deter drug runners and human traffickers who try to cross illegally from Mexico.
“Today’s event is a testament to fulfilling the promises President Trump made to the American people nearly four years ago to secure our borders and to reform a broken immigration system,” Wolf said during a 14-minute speech beneath the mammoth steel structure during a chilly morning. “The progress we are celebrating here did not happen by accident. The many miles of border wall system exists because of the will and vision of President Trump, and the dedication and hard work of the men and women of DHS, the Army Corps of Engineers and our colleagues from across the administration.”
When asked if the ceremony was an opportunity to garner praise for Trump less than a week before the Nov. 3 presidential election — especially since a New York Times/Siena College poll on Monday found Trump trailing Democratic candidate former Vice President Joe Biden in Texas — Wolf was defensive and said Thursday’s event had nothing to do with the election.
Wolf said he has been to wall ceremonies in January for the completion of the 100th mile; in June for the 200th mile; in August for the 300th mile. And he said he will be at another ceremony when they make the 450-mile goal they have set for year’s end.
“Public safety should not be a political issue,” said Wolf, whose officers reached out to media outlets to attend Thursday’s event, the latest of several commemorative wall-building events held from California to Texas just days before the election.
Wolf said currently there are 210 miles of border wall under construction across the Southwest and new miles are being completed daily. Much of the mileage is in Arizona on federal lands where CBP and Army Corps of Engineers contractors have easy access and where dozens of environmental regulations have been waived in the name of national security to build the wall.
Wolf mentioned President Donald Trump over a dozen times during his speech to local and national and international media, during which time he repeatedly criticized the media’s characterization of the border wall infrastructure system and its necessity for agents.
“Our journey to 400 miles has not been easy. Promises were made and promises were kept,” Wolf said. He said construction has continued despite the coronavirus pandemic, adding “We will not rest until we finish the job.”
Morgan complained that Twitter took down a tweet he posted yesterday praising the 400th mile, which he said was an “essential part of decades-long multi-layered strategy.”
“They may have locked my Twitter account but they’re not going to lock my voice,” Morgan said, adding that “locking my account doesn’t pass the BS test.”
Thursday’s event was held beneath a newly completed 1.5-mile section of the border wall that is part of 2.5 miles of new wall being built on or near 23rd Street south of McAllen. This section will connect to an 11-mile project, called RGV04, that is being constructed by companies hired by CBP and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of 22 miles of new border wall in the immediate area at a cost of about $300 million.
Morgan said that if current immigration policies are changed or the border wall removed, then there would be an “illegal invasion” into the United States. Although neither he nor Wolf mentioned Biden directly, both threatened a futuristic lawless state under another administration, and Wolf went a step further in calling such actions “dangerous” and “would endanger the lives of the Border Patrol and Americans across this country.”
“We inherited a broken and outdated system that incentivized smuggling of aliens,” Wolf said. “The Trump administration took decisive action … The only reason we haven’t reached another crisis is because of the policies and procedures this administration has put into place over the last several years including the construction of an effective border wall system. It’s plain to see these measures protect Americans because they work, because they are effective. Abolishing these measures or reversing course is absolutely no way forward. But that’s precisely what some of our critics are proposing.”
These measures protect Americans because they work, because they are effective. Abolishing these measures or reversing course is absolutely no way forward. But that’s precisely what some of our critics are proposing.”Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf
If elected president, Biden has said he would not build any more border miles and would dismantle immigration policies, like the Migrant Protection Protocols program, also known as remain in Mexico.
Morgan said Thursday that if MPP is ended then the country would return to “catch and release,” a policy used by the Obama administration that allowed apprehended undocumented migrants to live in the country under deferred adjudication until their immigration court hearings.
“This president has given us so much more than just tools like the wall system,” Morgan said. “The network of policies and the initiatives, like MPP, which was the driving factor that drove the end of catch-and-release. Through these network of initiatives and polices and tools we’ve been able to regain integrity back into the immigration system. We’ve been able to close numerous loopholes being exploited the smugglers, and quite frankly, the migrants themselves.”
Thursday’s event was one of many held by DHS officials in recent days along the border. On Wednesday, Wolf rode an ATV along a new border wall built in southern California, and gave Border Report an exclusive interview.
Last week, Morgan spoke with Border Report in El Paso and also praised the border wall infrastructure and Trump administration polices as a way to keep all Americans safe.
Left, a section of new border wall in McAllen was painted black as part of a “pilot project,” Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott said. Below right: The painted section is seen where it meets traditional rusted bollards, which are commonly found in South Texas. (Border Report Photos/Sandra Sanchez)
When asked by Border Report why a section of border wall where Thursday’s ceremony was held has been painted black — and the rest of the metal bollards are a rusted metal — Wolf said there was “an effectiveness reason on why you would paint it black for the Border Patrol to better identify folks and have that contrast.”
Chief Scott then added it is part of “initial testing of agents to identify movement behind that wall based on that paint color.” He said the paint “picks up better contrast so the agents can respond quicker.”
When asked if the entire border wall would be painted black, he said it was a “pilot project” that would be used “where appropriate.”
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.