On the day he took office in January 2021, President Joe Biden signed a proclamation that halted construction of his predecessor's U.S.-Mexico border wall. On the campaign trail in 2020, Biden repeatedly promised "not another foot" of wall would be constructed under his watch.
Those promises were broken Thursday when the Department of Homeland Security announced that four wide gaps in Donald Trump's border wall in southern Arizona would be completed to "address operational impacts, as well as immediate life and safety risks."
The Yuma Morelos Dam Project was originally funded by the Trump administration's Department of Defense, after President Donald Trump signed an executive order diverting $3.8 billion in Pentagon funding to border wall projects. But four gaps in the wall near the Morelos Dam and the Colorado River were left unfinished when the Biden administration halted border wall construction.
Now the project has been reauthorized by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas because of "safety and life hazard risks for migrants attempting to cross into the United States where there is a risk of drownings and injuries from falls," according to a news release.
"This area also poses a life and safety risk to first responders and agents responding to incidents in this area," DHS said. Completion of the wall will be funded under Homeland Security's 2021 budget.
The unfinished gaps in the wall near Yuma, Arizona, are the third busiest of nine sectors along the southern border for illegal border crossings. Migrants arrive in Algondones, Mexico, and cross over a concrete ledge on the Morelos Dam to enter the United States, where they are apprehended by Border Patrol, according to the Associated Press.
Border agents stopped migrants more than 160,000 times from January through June in the Yuma sector this year, nearly four times the number of migrant apprehensions over the same period last year. Only two border sectors experienced more migrant encounters, the Del Rio and Rio Grande Valley sectors in Texas.
The Biden administration was pressured to close the border wall gaps by Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), who is up for re-election this year amid the rampant migrant crisis on Arizona's border.
"For too long, the Morelos Dam area has been an operational challenge for Border Patrol agents to properly secure the border and keep our communities safe. I’m glad that the Department of Homeland Security has listened to Arizona and is going to close these gaps," Kelly said in a statement.
Still, the wall projects are opposed by environmental activists, who told the AP the walls will not act as a deterrent to illegal immigration and have called for the removal of barriers they say have harmed local wildlife.
It also calls for the removal of 180 miles of razor wire that were installed along pedestrian bollard fencing in all border states between 2019 and 2020, both as an eyesore and a danger to the public and wild animals.