The White House is completing several sections of former President Donald Trump’s border wall, with the Department of Homeland Security plugging four holes in the barrier near Yuma, Arizona, which has become a key migrant transit route.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas authorized Customs and Border Protection on Thursday to seal the openings near the Morelos Dam just west of downtown Yuma.
The department said the area “presents safety and life hazards to migrants attempting to cross into the United States where there is a risk of drowning and injury from falls. This area also poses a life and safety risk to first responders and agents who respond to incidents in this area.”
The dam is located in a section of the border that runs north-south along the Colorado River before turning on an east-west track at the California-Arizona state line.
Border officials have reported 235,230 migrant encounters in the Border Patrol’s Yuma sector since Oct. 1 of last year. Only the Del Rio (326,177) and Rio Grande Valley (377,194) sectors have reported more encounters in the same period.
President Biden ordered a halt to border wall construction shortly after taking office in January 2021. While the move was praised by liberal activists, it also left holes in the barrier that critics — including Biden’s fellow Democrats — say have been exploited by individual migrants and people. human traffickers who smuggle groups of people across the border.
Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) praised DHS Thursday for filling the openings.
“For too long, the Morelos Dam area has been an operational challenge for Border Patrol agents to secure the border and keep our communities safe,” Kelly said in a statement.
“I’m glad the Department of Homeland Security has listened to Arizona and is going to close these gaps,” Kelly added. “This is a step forward, and I will continue to work to ensure Arizona has the tools needed for a safe and orderly process at the border, including fences and barriers where they make sense.”
Yuma Mayor Doug Nicholls, a Republican, also hailed the move, calling it “an important first step in getting this border crisis under control, supporting our law enforcement and keeping border communities safe.”
The project will be funded by DHS appropriations in fiscal year 2021 – which were approved under the Trump administration.
Earlier this month, the department approved similar border wall construction to replace a “degraded barrier” located near the Friendship Park transboundary in Imperial Beach, California.
Last December, Mayorkas accepted funding to close unfinished construction gaps that would “address claims for life, safety, environmental and remedial border barrier projects” in California, Arizona and Texas.
The move to close the openings in Yuma comes as a record number of migrants have attempted to cross into the United States.
June was the fourth consecutive month in which border officials encountered more than 200,000 migrants (207,416). It also brought the total number of stops recorded since Oct. 1 to 1,746,119 — the most in any fiscal year since 1960.