On Wednesday, a senior administration official said that the president had ordered the border wall to be painted black because it would be too hot for people to climb in the daytime, and easier for border patrol agents to see through at nighttime.
But the administration’s claims that a border wall is rapidly appearing are overblown. Despite promising to complete 500 miles of border wall in his first term, the Army Corps of Engineers and private contractors have constructed just 60 miles of vehicle barriers or replacement fencing where existing impediments had been damaged, according to a Customs and Border Protection document.
The Trump administration has not constructed any new extension of the barriers, despite the extreme lengths that the president has gone to in hopes of delivering on his signature campaign promise. In February, Mr. Trump declared a national emergency to access billions of dollars for wall construction that Congress had refused to give him. The president gained a victory last month when the Supreme Court allowed the administration to use $2.5 billion in Defense Department money for the construction of the wall at the southwest border as lower courts considered legal actions to stop it.
The administration began using that funding last week to construct an additional 124 miles of barriers, according to the Customs and Border Protection document. Conservation groups have mounted several legal challenges against the administration, which they have accused of waiving environmental and public health laws to fulfill the president’s promise. Last week, construction on a replacement portion of the wall began in Arizona, with crews beginning work through two miles of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.
“It’s astonishing and sad to see Trump’s border wall being built through the most spectacular Sonoran desert ecosystem on the planet,” Laiken Jordahl, the borderlands campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity, told The Associated Press.
For their part, Democrats in Washington have targeted the administration’s efforts to transfer more resources to the southwestern border. On Tuesday, they assailed the Department of Homeland Security for transferring more than $150 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief fund to pay for temporary immigration courts at the southwest border.
“Stealing from appropriated funds is always unacceptable, but to pick the pockets of disaster relief funding in order to fund an appalling, inhumane family incarceration plan is staggering,” Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, said in a statement, “and to do so on the eve of hurricane season is stunningly reckless.”