EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The border wall is crucial to keeping drugs and unauthorized migrants out of the country, so halting construction will have dire consequences for Americans, a New Mexico congresswoman says.
The comments by U.S. Rep. Yvetter Herrell, R-New Mexico, come as President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office, bringing campaign promises to not only stop the construction of his predecessor’s steel bollard barrier with Mexico but also tear down the “legal wall” of procedural rules that keeps asylum seekers on the other side of the border.
“More than 80,000 Americans died of (drug) overdoses from May 2019 to May 2020. These Americans matter. Ending construction of the wall will only allow more drugs to flow from Mexican drug cartels, risking even more American lives,” she told Border Report.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdose deaths accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, fueled by the abuse of opioids and illicit synthetic drugs, like fentanyl. Synthetic opioid overdose deaths increased 34.8% for the 12-month period ending May 2020 while cocaine overdose fatalities went up 26.5%, possibly because of contamination from or co-use of heroin or synthetic drugs, the CDC said.
“The disruption to daily life due to the COVID-19 pandemic has hit those with substance use disorder hard,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield.
Herrell, who was elected Nov. 3 to represent New Mexico’s District 2 in the 117th Congress, said the border wall helps U.S. law enforcement slow the flow of drugs from Mexico and is supported by front-line agents.
“Skilled and dedicated public servants within (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) know these barriers are vital to ensuring the Border Patrol controls the border – not drug cartels or human smugglers,” she said. “It’s a shame some lawmakers and our President-elect oppose the wall merely because President Trump supports it.”
Most drug seizures take place at established U.S.-Mexico ports of entry, but in fiscal year 2020 the U.S. Border Patrol seized 128.7 tons of marijuana, 10.3 tons of methamphetamine, 15,360 pounds of cocaine, 809 pounds of fentanyl and 546 pounds of heroin in between ports of entry where the wall is in place, lacking or going up.
Biden “has said he will end this construction, violating contracts with builders and leaving our communities vulnerable to illegal crossings. Not only will this cost American taxpayers billions of dollars in settlement fees; it will also harm the construction industry along the border,” Herrell told Border Report.
Halting the contracts may lead to lawsuits from contractors, as Herrell says, but the federal government is already facing legal action from Texas property owners along the path of new wall construction. Groups fearing destruction of animal habitats, plant species and the desecration of tribal burial grounds in Arizona also oppose it.
Biden told reporters last year “not another foot” of border wall would be built once he takes office. Some Democrats and many migrant and civil rights advocates see the wall as a symbol of hate.
But Herrell said she will fight so Congress appropriates more funds to finish border wall construction, which she says has contributed to a reduction in drug and migrant smuggling activity in mostly desert areas west of the Santa Teresa Port of Entry in New Mexico.
The ‘legal border wall’ facing migrants
Herrell also decried Biden’s purported plans to roll back a series of Trump directives to cope with the 2018-2019 migrant surge from Central America. She said that would be bad for her constituents in New Mexico.
Some of those include the Migrant Protection Protocols, or Remain in Mexico program, and the CDC Title 42 order.
Those measures “effectively brought the border under control and doing away with them may allow illegal immigrants to enter freely into our country during a pandemic by ending a crucial border health program (Title 42) under which Border Patrol could rapidly send them back to Mexico,” Herrell said.
Earlier this week, several advocacy groups called for the suspension of Title 42 authority, saying it’s been used by the Trump administration to keep asylum seekers out. They also want to do away with Migrant Protection Protocols, which they say has led to asylum seekers being victimized by criminals in Mexico.
Migrants would enjoy the benefit of coming into the country while New Mexico residents are sheltered in place and businesses closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Herrell added.
Herrell also told Border Report she’s opposed to unilateral legalization efforts from Biden.
“President-elect Biden has signaled his intent to expand unconstitutional executive amnesties. Those types of policies promote lawlessness by allowing those who have not respected our laws to jump the line to stay here,” she said. “This will spark a new wave of illegal migration. The communities of Southern New Mexico will be left with the bill.”