The outgoing Trump administration is rushing to complete as much of Trump’s infamous Mexico border wall as possible before Joe Biden takes office in January, a new report has said.
According to The New York Times, construction on the wall, which stood at around 400 miles as of November 2020, is continuing at breakneck speed ahead of Mr Biden’s inauguration in January.
Mr Biden has said that his incoming administration does not intend to tear down what has been built of the wall but stipulated that they will not keep building it, or use money from the Pentagon to fund it.
According to the report, the administration’s blasting crews are swiftly tearing through the remote Peloncillo Mountains in forbidding terrain with dynamite, reflecting an increasing urgency to install the structure.
“Wildlife corridors, the archaeology and history, that’s all being blasted to oblivion or destroyed already,” Bill McDonald, 68, a cattleman and former lifelong Republican who voted for Mr Biden, told The Times.
“Tragedy is the word I use to describe it.”
Similar invasive work is reported to take place this month in the Guadalupe Canyon, an oasis-like habitat for rare species of birds, where crews are detonating cliff sides on a daily basis.
Critics say that the canyon was so remote that crossings by migrants in the area were expectionally infrequent to begin with.
“This isn’t just heartbreaking but totally pointless,” Diana Hadley, an historian whose family’s ranch includes much of Guadalupe Canyon, told the newspaper.
Defenders of the project have said that the wall offers protection to communities and improves security, allowing border protection to target migration in certain areas.
“We will see the benefits greatly once this wall system is in place without a doubt,” Brian Hastings, the Customs and Border Protection chief for the Rio Grande Valley sector told the newspaper. “It allows us to be able to respond quicker.”
The Republican mayor of Douglas, Donald Huish, argued: “We’d reached the saturation point of finding illegal aliens in our back alleys, and now that situation has changed.”
Of the around 400 miles of wall that has been built since Mr Trump took office, about 25 miles had no barrier beforehand and the rest replaced smaller, more dilapidated sections of wall or those with vehicle barriers.
“The wall is a common-sense thing that improves our security and keeps my cows from wandering into Mexico,” Timmothy Klump, 31, a generational Arizona borderlands rancher, told The Times.
“The ranchers opposed to the wall are in the minority.”
Advisers involved with the transition team for Mr Biden rejected the notion that there would be any attempt to dismantle the existing border wall in conversation with The Times.
The incoming administration has announced their early plans will involve reinstating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme and overturning the travel ban on people visiting the United States from 13 countries, many of them Muslim-majority.
Halting the wall’s project could however present significant logistical and financial challenges such as the cost of terminating construction contracts and ensuring the terrain where work is left unfinished remains safe.
One contract from November 2019 for 33 miles of fence replacement in Arizona, currently valued at about $420 million, could cost the government nearly $15 million to terminate, ProPublica reported.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press
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