“Ahí está!”—”There it is!” South of Yuma, Arizona, 30-foot-tall pillars rise against the desert sky. A construction crew is erecting a towering border wall. The U.S. government hopes the new wall will reduce the flow of immigrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.
President Donald Trump and his administration intend to build 450-500 miles of fencing along the nearly 2,000-mile border by the end of 2020. The wall is funded by billions of defense dollars originally meant for things like military base schools, target ranges, and maintenance facilities.
Two other projects in New Mexico and Arizona are underway too. But some people doubt that so many miles of wall can be built in such a short amount of time. The government is up against last-minute construction hiccups, funding issues, and legal challenges from environmentalists and property owners whose land sits on the border.
Last year, the number of migrant families who cross the border illegally in the Yuma area increased. Many are fleeing extreme poverty and violence. Some are seeking asylum. So far this year, Yuma Border Patrol agents have apprehended over 51,000 family units—compared with just over 14,500 the year before.
“Historically, this has been a huge crossing point for both vehicles as well as family units and unaccompanied alien children,” Border Patrol spokesman Jose Garibay says. “They’ve just been pouring over the border due to the fact that we’ve only ever had vehicle bollards and barriers that by design only stop vehicles.”
Victor Manjarrez Jr., a former Border Patrol chief, was an agent when the government put up the first barriers. He says tall border fencing is crucial in some areas and less helpful in others. He says, “One form doesn’t fit in all areas, and so the fence itself is not the one solution. It’s a combination of many things.”
(Government contractors erect a section of Pentagon-funded border wall along the Colorado River in Yuma, Arizona, Tuesday, September 10, 2019. AP Photo/Matt York)