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Construction of the border wall: what happened when it froze?

Heavy machinery is parked and stationary. Stacks of steel bollards stretch as far as the eye can see.

The Trump administration has built more than 450 miles of fencing along the US-Mexico border – including hundreds of miles of replacement fencing and 52 miles of construction where there were previously no barriers. The wall has become a focal point of his presidency, a political gathering place and a symbol of the administration’s controversial crackdown on immigration.

During the election campaign, President Biden vowed not to build another foothold. And he quickly halted construction once he became president.

A big question remains unresolved, months after his presidency: what will happen to the sites where construction work was underway?

The fences currently cover 706 miles of the 1,954-mile US-Mexico border. We recently visited four locations along this stretch where construction on the wall had started, but has been on hold since Biden became president.

So far, the new administration does not say what will happen next in any of these places.

But the people who live and work in the area have a lot to say about what they want to see.

Here’s what we saw and what they told us:

Stop 1: The view from the end of the road

It’s about as far as the border wall construction is about 15 miles east of Nogales, Arizona in the Patagonian mountains. What you see now is a path carved through a pristine desert landscape.

It’s a scene that’s all too familiar to environmental activist Laiken Jordahl. A former ranger, he has spent the past four years campaigning against the border wall in these remote areas of Arizona.

Here is how he describes the landscape:

Customs and Border Protection said the border wall projects had gone through “environmental stewardship plans” to analyze and minimize the environmental impact, including studies on how wildlife might be affected by the environmental impacts. projects.

Jordahl says he’s seen enough.

Stop 2: tire tracks in the dirt, but no activity to find

At the Coronado National Memorial in Arizona, tire tracks in the dirt are reminiscent of heavy construction equipment that was there just a few months ago.

In December, crews were working feverishly to finish erecting a section of wall here.

Now the roads nearby are blocked, so we can’t get close enough to see what they’ve built.

But it is clear: the landscape of the region has already radically changed.

Construction of the border wall: what happened when it froze?

Stop 3: A marked mountainside and a half-built wall

At Guadalupe Canyon, construction crews were busy at work on our last visit. All you could hear was the sound of heavy machinery, construction crews, and explosive detonations exploding in the mountains. Now it’s strangely quiet.

Construction has stopped. And you can see a marked mountainside, a half-built wall, and huge amounts of steel – seemingly abandoned. Now, vestiges of old steel barriers block access to the new wall.

Construction of the border wall: what happened when it froze?

For Jordahl and other anti-border wall activists, the question is, how do you fix a mountain that now looks like this?

Stop 4: A scene a sheriff calls “ stupid ”

In Del Rio, Texas, Val Verde County Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez took us to what is supposed to be a two mile stretch of border wall. So far, only a few hundred meters have been built.

Construction equipment is still on site. Deep trenches are dug.

Construction of the border wall: what happened when it froze?

You can still see the smaller fence that guarded this stretch of border. And it did the trick, says Martinez. Crime, burglaries and thefts fell as the structure diverted contraband activity and gave border patrol officers more time to respond. But now that this new structure – a 30-foot taller fence – is half-built, the sheriff is hoping it will be completed.

And there’s one thing he knows he doesn’t want to see: All the fences are down – an idea some border wall critics have suggested.

In one of his first actions as president, Biden ordered a break on building the walls and called for a review of projects and a plan to redirect funds within 60 days. Customs and Border Protection, in coordination with the US Army Corps of Engineers, says to comply with the president’s proclamation, wall construction projects “except security-related activities” must be suspended. .

The 60-day review period ended over a month ago. But in a rush to find answers to its border wall plans in recent days, the Biden administration hasn’t said much.

“Federal agencies continue to review wall contracts and develop a plan to submit to the president soon – he’s – he’s suspended,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki recently told reporters.

The administration’s latest funding request to Congress includes $ 1.2 billion for border infrastructure, but no additional funds for the construction of walls.

CNN’s Ed Lavandera, Ashley Killough, Dave Ruff, Gregg Canes and Joel De La Rosa reported from the US-Mexico border, CNN’s Catherine E. Shoichet reported from Arlington, Virginia and CNN’s Madeleine Stix reported from New York . CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez contributed to this report.


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