At full speed and trying to buy time, construction companies are accelerating work on the border wall before Joe Biden takes office in January and puts a stop to the project that outgoing President Donald Trump considers his legacy and possible platform for a future presidential bid.
In various segments of the Arizona-Mexico border, one can see how the flow of trucks and materials, as well as the construction of the fence itself, does not stop. Construction companies are trying to get as many miles as possible before the new administration can cancel their multi-million dollar contracts.
“Right now what the Trump Administration is doing is urging all these companies to build fast, to use all the money they have already been given because there will be no more,” Raul Grijalva, the federal representative for Arizona, told Efe.
WE HAVE TO WAIT
The Democratic congressman, who represents a district that covers much of the Arizona border, told Efe that “unfortunately” there is nothing that can be done at the moment to stop this accelerated construction because Trump still has the power until January 20. “After that, we will see what decisions we can make to remedy the damage they have caused,” he said.
For his part, one of the workers who is building the wall in an area of the Arizona desert told Efe, anonymously for fear of losing his job, that the urgency for the companies to finish the construction project as soon as possible is evident since many workers are working overtime.
He indicated that at the beginning of this year they were working an average of four days per week, then they went up to five and now they are working six days per week. Each worker earns an average of $20 an hour, and those who know how to operate heavy machinery can earn much more.
Next December, a new and perhaps final battle is anticipated in Washington to approve more funding for the construction of the border fence. Congress must approve the budget for the fiscal year 2021 and for that it requires for the last time the signature of President Trump, who has requested $2 billion to continue construction of the barrier.
Grijalva said that even if Congress approves these funds, they would not “necessarily” be used to continue the construction of the fence, but could perhaps be used to “remedy” the damage caused by the work to the environment.
Environmental groups have asked President-elect Biden to not only stop construction but also to tear down key parts of the structure that currently cause the most ecological damage to the region.
In recent months, the urgency of the Trump Administration and the construction companies to accelerate the construction of the barrier, one of the Republican leader’s campaign promises before his election in 2016, has been visible.
While last April the Trump Administration announced the completion of 150 miles (240 kilometers) of the border wall, in six months the figure has almost tripled and now, according to official figures from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), 402 miles (643 kilometers) have been completed. The 450 miles (720 kilometers) of the border wall is expected to be reached by the end of December.
According to the Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees construction, there are currently 11 different contractors working at 27 different points along the border.
For Anna Ochoa O’Leary, director of the Department of Mexican-American Studies at the University of Arizona, the “urgency” to build as many miles of the wall as possible before Trump’s presidency ends can serve different purposes.
The first is to preserve what Trump considers “his legacy” and to demonstrate to his base of supporters that he has fulfilled his promise to build a wall on the border with Mexico to stop undocumented immigration.
The second is to continue to nurture this conservative base that follows him and take the first steps toward what some speculate could be a possible new Trump candidacy for the presidency in 2024.