The Trump administration’s chief border enforcement official cast doubt on the administration’s goal of completing construction of the southern border wall by 2021, throwing cold water on one of the Trump campaign’s major promises heading into next year’s election.
“It’s hard right now to say whether we’re still going to meet that goal,” Customs and Border Protection acting commissioner Mark Morgan said in an interview with The New York Times published Wednesday. “But I’m confident we’re going to be close.”
President Trump has promised to install 450 miles of new border wall by 2021.
In September, Defense Secretary Mark Esper approved the transfer of $3.6 billion from military construction projects to build 175 miles of border wall, a move that comes several months after Trump declared a national emergency regarding the situation at the border, where thousands of migrants have crossed into the U.S. illegally this year.
Until this month, the administration had focused on rebuilding existing barriers and fences at the border, resulting in 93 miles of new wall, most of which was built on federal land where border barriers previously existed. On December 5, construction began in Donna, Texas for the first new eight-mile section of border wall.
In Texas, the administration is also reportedly hoping to exercise eminent domain laws against private landowners along the border to expedite wall construction on their land.
Border authorities have continued to tighten immigration laws over the past year after the flow of undocumented immigrants surged at the U.S.-Mexico border during the spring. In September, the Department of Homeland Security announced that the vast majority of migrant families who enter the country illegally will no longer be eligible for so-called “catch and release” due to the implementation of the “Migrant Protection Protocols,” which require that migrants wait in Mexico while their asylum claims are being adjudicated.