Biden to build more Mexico wall as migrants set up camp on border

WASHINGTON/CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico: The Biden administration quietly announced plans on Thursday to add to the border wall with Mexico — extending construction of the barrier that was a signature policy of Donald Trump. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a notice in the US Federal Register there was “an acute and immediate need to construct physical barriers and roads in the vicinity of the border of the United States in order to prevent unlawful entries.”

The new section of wall will be built in the “high illegal entry” Rio Grande Valley Sector of the US-Mexico border, Mayorkas said, where there have been more than 245,000 illegal entrants this fiscal year. President Joe Biden announced in a proclamation on the day he took office in January 2021 that no more taxpayer funds would be allocated to build a border wall. “Building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border is not a serious policy solution,” Biden said.

Mayorkas said the funding for the “additional physical barriers” would come from an appropriation made by Congress for that purpose in 2019, when Trump was still in office. The Department of Homeland Security said some two dozen federal laws such as the Clean Air Act and Endangered Species Act would need to be waived to allow for the extension of the border wall.

Illegal immigration has become a major political issue for Biden, with opposition Republicans accusing him of lax border policies. Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, said the Biden administration move showed “I was right when I built 560 miles … of brand new, beautiful border wall.” “Will Joe Biden appolgize (sic) to me and America for taking so long to get moving, and allowing our country to be flooded with 15 million illegals immigrants, from places unknown,” Trump said in a post on his Truth Social platform.

A risky trip

On Tuesday, more than a thousand migrants rode atop a freight train to the edge of the US border after dodging authorities on a 10-day journey through Mexico. Their trip had been beset by migration agencies’ efforts to get them off the train, said Daiverson Munoz, a 20-year-old from Venezuela. “And we’re stuck in the middle of the desert. But it’s nothing, we’re here and we feel super happy because we’re about to realize our dream. It’s been hard but not impossible.” As soon as they arrived in Ciudad Juarez, the group of mainly Venezuelan migrants threw their belongings on the ground and jumped off the top of the train.

Their journey started in the central State of Mexico, pitting them against fatal accidents and injuries that are common on similar journeys. “The hardest part was seeing how many people were injured” during the journey, said Munoz, a law student in his native country. The final 370 kilometers (230 miles) of the trip took 17 hours due to the number of stops, he said. The risky trip has become virtually the only option for migrants to reach the border, due to restrictions on the purchase of coach tickets.

The crowds have forced Mexico’s main rail operator to cut its traffic by 30 percent in mid-September, as the government tightened security measures to prevent such journeys. Migration agencies “always get us off and we always lose money,” said Jeffri Gomez, a 24-year-old Venezuelan woman traveling with her husband and one-year-old baby. As soon as they arrived, they came across an official from the Mexican National Institute of Migration and a barbed-wire wall from the Texas National Guard on the banks of the Rio Bravo, a natural border with the United States.

Some migrants waited for an appointment made through the US Customs and Border Protection’s mobile app in an effort to enter the United States legally. Others tried to cross the border on foot to surrender to police. After a three-hour walk, hundreds of migrants arrived at one of the gates of the border wall, where about 50 officials and dozens of police officers were waiting to prevent them from crossing. Arms folded, the migrants advanced, chanting “the united people will never be defeated,” until officials asked them to back off. The migrants then set up camp near a fence designed to prevent them from crossing. – AFP

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