On Thursday, Acting Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Mark Morgan took to the White House briefing room to speak about various issues pertaining to the southern border of the United States.
After his initial remarks, Morgan took questions from the press, and Peter Alexander of NBC News asked about progress on border wall.
ALEXANDER: The President has promoted the construction of a border wall as one of the key deterrent efforts to try to keep migrants from coming into this country illegally. Just for a status update for us: How many miles of wall has been constructed? Not wall that’s replacing old wall, but new wall has been built to this point.
MORGAN: So, 78 miles of new wall has been built.
SLEXANDER: So, much of that, obviously, is replacing wall that formerly existed, [that] the President said was insufficient. How many miles of wall now exist where there was no wall whatsoever?
MORGAN: So, again, my response to that is – every mile of wall that’s being built is a new mile of wall.
ALEXANDER: No disagreements. But how many – but just for a breakdown, how many miles formerly existed that have now been renovated or replaced? And how many miles – new, where nothing existed?
MORGAN: So, right now, the 78 miles that have been built have been built where there was an existing form of barrier. We just started breaking ground in RGV, where we’re building miles of new wall where there has been no structure there at all.
ALEXANDER: So that’s just now starting, the construction of new wall begins, effectively, now?
MORGAN: That’s correct.
Morgan was then asked about the challenges of “land acquisition” as it relates to construction of the wall. Morgan replied that there is indeed difficulty due to certain pieces of land having multiple owners.
He added that there is progress being made elsewhere:
Now, there’s also areas like Laredo, for example, that were actually, you know, working with the city on the design, the structure, and even where it can be placed to make sure that we’re taking their considerations into the process as well. So it’s a challenge, but again, I still think that we’re on track to get the land we need for 450 miles. What I will say is that there are lawsuits out there.
34 months into his presidency, President Trump has thus far failed to accomplish any major construction of the southern border wall, which was his signature issue during the 2016 campaign.
In February, President Trump declared a “state of emergency” in order to redirect funds from elsewhere in the government for construction of the border wall. The declaration was challenged, but the Supreme Court struck a blow to the argument in July.
USA Today reported: “The court’s five conservative justices lifted an injunction against the border wall spending that had been imposed by a federal district court judge in California and affirmed by a federal appeals court. The injunction blocked spending while the lawsuit challenging it remains pending at the appeals court.”
According to a September report from CNBC: “The Pentagon this month outlined the military construction projects from which it would divert $3.6 billion to building border barriers.”
In October, Federal District Court Judge David Briones ruled that “President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration to build a border wall is unlawful,” reports CNN. The funds targeted in the lawsuit are “military construction funds that have been diverted … ”
However, according to Roll Call, this isn’t the end of the legal battle because “Briones said he would allow both sides to argue about the scope of an injunction in the next two weeks.” The Justice Department would probably make an argument in the case, added the outlet.
Also in October, the Senate failed to overturn the president’s veto of “Democratic-sponsored legislation reversing his raid of military base project money to pay for the U.S.-Mexico border wall,” according to ABC News.
As the funding situation continues to evolve, two questions remain. First, when and where will new sections of border wall be built? Second, how many miles will be completed before the 2020 election?