“We see an incomplete wall even though during the Trump days the dollars to build more than 700 miles had been guaranteed. Only 150 miles were built ”. Texas Land Commissioner, Republican George P. Bushshe said during an interview on the “Mornings With Maria” program broadcast on Fox Business Network on June 9.
George P. Bush stands out among the other members of his family because he has positive things to say about former President Donald Trump.
Bush launched his campaign for Texas attorney general in 2022 seeking Trump’s support and praise, despite the 45th president’s record of targeting older members of the Bush clan. (One of Bush’s campaign props shows a thermos of beer quoting Trump as saying, “This is the only Bush who likes me! This is the Bush who got it right! I like him.”)
Trump’s endorsement would be a great help to his campaign in Texas. Bush is rushing to unseat Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton, a deadly Trump supporter whose father was not mocked by the former president. (Bush’s father is “low-energy” Jeb Bush).
In any case, the construction figures that Bush gave on Trump’s wall make no sense regardless of how they are calculated, and he is also wrong to say that all funds “were guaranteed.”
One of the flagship promises of the Trump campaign in 2016 was the construction of a large concrete wall that would span the entire length of the US-Mexico border to deter illegal immigration. Congress halted funding for the project, and the clash between the two sides caused the federal government to shut down in early 2018.
Trump then abandoned his original plan for a concrete wall and agreed to build a 30-foot-high steel barrier and vehicle barriers. The plan, up to the time Trump ended his term, called for 738 miles of a “border wall system” along the nearly 2,000-mile southern border.
A fact sheet published jointly by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency (U.S. Customs and Border Protection, – CBP and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) shows how as of January 8, 453 miles of the project had been completed.
Of the 453 total miles, 351 miles were barrier replacement, 47 miles were new barriers where they did not exist before, and the remaining 55 miles were “secondary” barriers. (A CBP spokesperson told us that another five miles were added before Joe Biden took office on January 20, for a total of 458 miles.)
Bush said “only 150 miles were built,” but it is not clear how he got that figure. If you only count new barriers where they didn’t exist before, that would be about 50 miles. If you count both the replacement barriers and the new barriers, it would be about 400 miles. If the secondary barriers are added, the 450 miles are exceeded. Bush, his campaign, and the Texas General Land Office, which he currently chairs, did not respond to our questions.
Bush claimed that funding for the barrier was “guaranteed,” but in fact, Congress refused to approve all the resources Trump wanted for the project.
Trump declared a national emergency in 2019, claiming that unauthorized immigration was reaching threatening levels, and used the legal powers derived from it to use resources that Congress had approved for military spending.
The total cost of the 738-mile project was estimated at about $ 15 billion. Two-thirds of the funds ($ 10 billion taken from the Department of Defense) were not approved for that purpose.
In 2017, Congress approved $ 341.2 million to replace approximately 40 miles of deteriorating pedestrian barriers and build 34 entry and exit points.
Congress approved $ 1,375 billion annually between 2018 and 2020. Those funds came with strings attached, as they specified what types of barriers needed to be built and where. In 2019, an additional $ 601 million came from the Treasury Garnishment Fund (Treasury Forfeiture Fund). In 2019 and 2020, the Trump administration took $ 6.3 billion of Defense Department funds for counter-narcotics and redirected it to building barriers.
Some $ 3.6 billion in military construction funds were taken from the Department of Defense in 2019.
President Joe Biden immediately ended Trump’s national emergency immigration decree, even though his administration has not said how it will reinvest unspent resources. “Like every nation, the United States has the right and duty to secure its borders and protect its people from threats,” Biden said in his proclamation. But building a massive wall across the entire southern border is not a serious policy solution. It is a waste of money that diverts attention from the real threats to our national security.
Even if Biden wanted to continue with the barrier, it would still be in doubt that he can solve the logistical problems that hurt his predecessor.
Trump built most of his barrier along the deserts and mountains of southern Arizona that are national lands, wildlife reserves and other federal property that was already under government control. He built much less in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas (also referred to in Mexico as the Rio Bravo), the busiest border-crossing area and the epicenter of one of the largest influxes of migrants, where most of the the land is private property.
Private, tribal and state lands make up about 70% of the border between Mexico and the United States. According to a November report from the Government Accountability Office (U.S. Government Accountability Office – GAO), the large number of private landowners along the border and other factors such as gaps in land ownership records preserved by local authorities delayed the construction of Trump’s barrier in the Rio Grande Valley.
“The barriers must be built ‘far north’ of the Rio Grande in some areas of southern Texas because a 1970 treaty between the United States and Mexico prohibits the construction of barriers that affect the natural flow of the Rio Grande,” reported the GAO, noting that in some places this means building up to a mile north of the river. “As a result, barriers can cut through private parcels of land and leave owners with property on both sides of the barrier. In these cases, the Border Patrol must provide landowners with an access route to their land south of the barrier. “
In some areas, the land even has multiple owners, which made it difficult for the federal government to negotiate its acquisition. “For example, a case started in 2019 listed at least 87 owners for a plot of land of approximately 6 hectares in Hidalgo County, in southern Texas,” says the GAO report. “According to court records, eight owners opposed the negotiation.”
The information Bush cited is not hard to come by. On January 12, Trump traveled to Texas to say: “Today we celebrate an extraordinary achievement, the culmination of the promised 450 miles of border wall. Four hundred and fifty miles. Nobody realizes how much that is. “
Bush made a double mistake with these statements, incorrectly pointing out that only 150 miles of Trump’s barrier were built before Biden took office, and wrongly claiming that all project resources had been “guaranteed.”
Of the total $ 15 billion, $ 10 billion came from Defense Department funds that Trump seized thanks to emergency legal powers, not congressional approval.
Some might argue that Trump built just 50 miles of new border barriers, and others might say it was more than 458 miles, if the replacement of deteriorated barriers and secondary barriers are added. But the 150-mile figure appears to come out of nowhere, and Bush did not offer an explanation when asked about his statement.
This is a rare case in which a politician could have avoided some Pinocchio moments simply by repeating points from Trump’s speech. Instead, Bush went his own way and earned three Pinocchio.
Salvador Rizzo is a reporter for The Fact Checker. He previously covered New Jersey politics and Governor Chris Christie from the Star-Ledger, the Bergen Record, and the New York Observer.
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