The Biden administration announced Tuesday it will work to close gaps in physical barriers along the Southwest border and address environmental and other issues with the construction of the Trump-era wall amid growing concerns about the federal government’s ability to handle high levels of unauthorized migration.
Officials said the latest work, authorized by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, will focus on Texas and is aimed at addressing security and environmental concerns raised by the construction of new or improved barriers along the border with Mexico.
Installation of drainage systems, the addition of safety features to highways, and remediation of some construction sites will take place in various areas between San Diego and El Paso, Texas. Work will also include closing gaps between incomplete sections of the barrier and finishing access gates used by Border Patrol.
Over the past year, the Biden administration has worked to address a number of environmental concerns and has tightened flawed and incomplete work at the California and Texas border sites.
“Prior to the job, the Department of Homeland Security will work closely with stakeholders, including affected landowners, tribal, state and local elected officials, and federal agencies to seek information and assistance in prioritizing potential remediation activities. remediation within each Sector,” the department said. in a sentence.
While many of former President Donald Trump’s promises of a US-Mexico border wall never materialized, including that the Mexican government would cover the cost, Border Patrol agents throughout the Southwest have emphasized the importance of physical infrastructure. to help control unauthorized migration.
Border Patrol agents under-resourced by migration surges have long relied on barriers, especially in high-density urban areas, to prevent illegal crossings.
The rate of migration across the southern border into Texas has risen again recently with the imminent end of a pandemic-era restriction first implemented under Trump known as Title 42.
Local and federal officials have repeatedly raised concerns in interviews with ABC News that the end of Title 42, which allowed for the removal of asylum seekers in light of concerns about COVID-19, prompting protest from advocates. , could make it difficult to handle waves of unauthorized migration. The US Customs and Border Protection sent personnel and resources to the El Paso area to handle the illegal crossings over the weekend.
Border Patrol in El Paso said they are apprehending migrants about 2,400 times a day on average, compared with about 1,700 a day in previous months.
As president, Trump promised to build a sprawling wall on the southern border, but repeatedly ran into legal, logistical and legislative obstacles. By the end of his tenure, administration officials said hundreds of miles of barriers had been built, though the vast majority of it was improvements to existing structure. For example, sections of old fences were replaced by imposing steel barriers accompanied by access roads, lighting and surveillance systems.
That work was largely halted and ordered to be reviewed at the start of the Biden administration, which found a variety of environmental threats and security risks. Some sections of the barrier that began during the Trump era caused irreparable environmental damage and threatened cultural landmarks, Biden officials said.
In 2020, construction crews working along the border carried out a series of detonations along a stretch of land in southern Arizona considered sacred by the local Indian tribe.
Some construction sites, including an unfinished section of what Trump called his “border wall” in Del Rio, Texas, have been mostly abandoned since early 2021 as the Biden administration conducted its review.
“CBP intends to prioritize remedial projects necessary to address life and safety issues, including the protection of people, [Border Patrol] Agents and nearby communities from potential harm, and prevent environmental damage or degradation,” the Department of Homeland Security said in its statement.
ABC News’ Mireya Villarreal contributed to this report.