According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) records obtained by The Washington Post via a Freedom of Information Act request, smugglers breached or attempted to breach President Donald Trump’s border wall 18 times in one month, sawing into sections in the San Diego area between September 27 and October 27. The newspaper had requested breaching data for the full 2019 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30.
CBP said the average cost to repair the damage was $620 per incident. The agency declined to reveal specific locations of the incidents, “citing law enforcement sensitivities.” It clarified that the smuggling attempts that were counted were ones that required the government to repair the border wall and did not necessarily represent successful breaches, which allow narcotics or migrants to enter the country illegally.
“Transnational criminal organizations are an adaptive adversary — regardless of materials, nothing is impenetrable if given unlimited time and tools,” CBP said in a statement, adding that they are building a “border wall system that includes technology, roads and an enforcement zone. Taken together, these capabilities maximize how long agents have to respond to attempted crossings — increasing the time they have from mere seconds to minutes, hours or even days depending on the adversary’s methods.”
The wall is still under construction amid the coronavirus pandemic, and Congressional Democrats have called on the president’s administration to stop building the barrier as the nation grapples with the enormity of the public health crisis.
“Money should be invested in healthcare, small businesses and fighting the spread of the coronavirus, not used to build an ineffective and wasteful border wall,” 91 Democratic lawmakers wrote in a letter addressed to Attorney General William Barr, acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf and Defense Secretary Mark Esper, obtained by Axios.
Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who represents areas like the town of Ajo, where residents have reported their fears that the virus will spread unchecked as border wall construction workers travel to and from the border, said: “The presence of large construction crews in small border towns threatens the health of those communities where they are already underprepared to deal with the coming public health emergency.”