President Trump fulfilled a promise to install 450 miles of border wall along the U.S.-Mexico boundary by the end of 2020, according to the country’s top border official.
Construction workers put up the 450th mile of fencing in the final days of December, acting U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan said in a private call with several reporters Tuesday morning.
“Myself and the deputy commissioner, leaders here, we found out about it — we were briefed on Dec. 31 that we had actually reached the goal, and we had accomplished what we set out to accomplish,” Morgan said.
“I remember every time that I said with confidence that I, without hesitation, that we were going to accomplish this goal by Dec. 31,” Morgan said. “We were going to put 450 miles of steel and concrete along with all the essential attributes of the wall system Dec. 31. We were challenged, and a lot of people didn’t think we’re going to be able to do it. … That is a remarkable achievement.”
The construction represents a partial fulfillment of Trump’s campaign promises. Trump vowed as a candidate to put up 1,000 miles of wall on the nearly 2,000-mile border, which stretches from the Pacific Coast in California to the Gulf of Mexico in Texas. He also said he would get it done for $4 billion. To date, 738 miles of border wall has been funded for $15 billion. Four hundred and fifty miles of the 738 have been completed.
More than 340 miles of the 450 total newly installed miles are in the place of older fencing, while 40 miles are brand new in previously unsecured areas. The remaining 50-plus miles are secondary fencing or duplicate barriers put up behind the main fence.
The completion is noteworthy given how slow progress was in the first three years of the Trump administration and indicates a surge over the past 12 months. The Trump administration had put up 100 miles of completed wall as of January 2020.
“President Trump took office with the promise to build the wall and secure our southern border — a promise he has kept,” acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said in a statement Tuesday morning. “From the start, the president listened to operators on the ground and has pushed for funding for physical infrastructure, access roads, lights, cameras and sensors — a full package to secure our border.”
Trump vowed in July 2020 to “have over 450 miles built by the end of the year.” Between January and July 2020, builders added another 129 miles for a total of 229 miles with 221 more miles to go in less than six months’ time if they were going to meet Trump’s goal.
Morgan credited the White House’s support for getting hundreds of miles of wall erected in four years.
“He actually listened and heard from the experts, from the folks that are on the border — from the front lines of the American border every single day,” said Morgan. “He went down — he didn’t just hear them. He listened to — traveled down to the border, he learned about the border.”
The Defense Department’s Army Corps of Engineers has overseen the building process, including granting contracts to companies who bid on the projects. Progress sped up early last year when construction workers up and down the 1,954-mile southern border were installing the 18- to 30-foot-tall pieces of slatted steel at a rate of one mile per day, sometimes up to two miles per day. Then–Army Corps Commanding Gen. Todd Semonite said in April 2019 that 450 miles of wall would be installed by November 2020, but he did not meet the goal.
Congressional budgets passed since 2017 have made $4.7 billion available to build 738 miles of steel wall. Following the White House’s failed negotiation with congressional Democrats in late 2018, Trump declared a national emergency at the border to gain access to $10.5 billion in Pentagon and Treasury Department funds and used that money for wall construction, which includes newly paved roads, lighting, a host of technology options, and the physical wall.
Trump also promised in his 2015 campaign announcement that U.S. taxpayers would not foot the bill for the massive project and said Mexico would pay for it. Mexico has refused to pay, and Trump insisted that the renegotiated the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement was billing Mexico for its government’s refusal to cover the costs.
Border wall construction first began under the Clinton administration in the 1990s. Congress approved the Secure Fence Act under George W. Bush, which funded more than 650 miles of barrier following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Half of those miles blocked vehicles from driving across rural parts of the border, while the other half was tall enough to prevent people from illegally crossing.