President Trump on Tuesday declared victory in his fight to build a wall on the southern border, as he visited newly-built structure in Yuma, Ariz. and ripped into what he described as a "deadly" immigration plan from his Democratic rival Joe Biden.
"You don't hear about the wall anymore because we won,” Trump said in remarks at the wall.
There are now approximately 280 miles of wall built since 2017, and officials told Trump at the site that they expect to have completed 300 miles as early as the end of next week.
The wall was a highly controversial, but central, proposal of Trump’s 2016 campaign, and has faced a number of significant hurdles in Congress and the courts — the administration has gotten around funding issues by reappropriating Pentagon funding.
Critics have countered that most of the wall is in areas where there were already structures in place — but administration officials note that the new structure is significantly different from the old landing-mat style barriers up before the Trump era. The new structure involves 18 foot high steel bollards with anti-climb measure, lighting and cameras to help apprehend those trying to cross the border.
Trump also hailed the wall at a nearby campaign event after the border visit, where he spoke to supporters.
“That big portion of wall already built you don't get through it, you can't get through it, you can climb Mount Everest and you'll have an awful hard time getting over that sucker,” he said.
The building of the wall has coincided with a steep decline in crossings at the border, although they have increased in recent months. The wall has been accompanied by other policies to restrict illegal immigration, including the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) and asylum agreements with countries in the Northern Triangle.
This year the administration has been returning asylum seekers and illegal immigrants quickly because of a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) order stemming from the coronavirus crisis. It has also sought to crack down on "sanctuary cities" in which detainers from federal immigration enforcement are ignored.
Trump has sought to draw a contrast with presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s immigration plan, which calls for measures including a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and a moratorium on deportations.
“Joe Biden is the puppet of the radical left wing movement that seeks the complete elimination of America’s borders and boundaries,” Trump said. "They want to take the wall down, they don’t want borders, they want sanctuary cities."
President Donald Trump arrives to speak to a crowd of supporters at the Yuma International Airport Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Yuma, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Trump was able to tout the endorsement of the National Border Patrol Council ahead of the speech, which had also endorsed him in 2016. He said that dangerous gangs like MS-13 are on the run, and claimed a Biden win would be a “jailbreak” for the gang.
Trump warned supporters that a Biden plan would “unleash a flood of illegal immigration”
‘Biden’s plan is the most radical extreme, reckless, dangerous and deadly immigration plan put forward by a major party candidate — it must be defeated and it will be defeated on Nov. 3,” he said.
Trump spoke hours before the second night of the Democratic National Convention, where Trump’s immigration policies are expected to be strongly criticized again. Trump will speak at the Republican National Convention next Thursday.