But its partially constructed border wall is ultimately a reminder of broken promises. However, Democrats, former U.S. and Mexican officials, immigrant advocates and migration experts agree: it remains a symbol of the Trump presidency, defined from the start by anti-immigrant rhetoric and sweeping policies.
“What he accomplished in four years with the wall could have been done in a bipartisan way with less noise. But that was never the point. It wasn’t about the wall, ”said Andrew Selee, president of the non-partisan Migration Policy Institute.
“It was always a larger symbolism of separating America from external dangers,” Selee added.
The 452 miles of border wall that have been built is only a fraction of the 1,954 miles of the US-Mexico border. And only a small portion of the 452 miles – roughly 40 miles as of Dec. 18, according to one Customs and Border Protection Report published by non-partisan Factcheck.org – is a newly built wall where none existed before.
“It’s really a failure,” said Representative Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), a lawmaker representing part of the border. “Instead of saying let’s heal the country together. This does not happen. His priority is the fence. Its priorities are its priorities and not the country.
On Tuesday afternoon, Trump widely used his speech as a victory lap for his administration’s immigration policy, saying he “had ended the immigration chaos and restored American sovereignty.” He said the partially constructed wall was “one of the biggest infrastructure projects in our country’s history.”
“We have reformed our immigration system and achieved the safest southern border in US history,” Trump said in a 22-minute speech with the border wall as a backdrop.
Migration experts dispute the success of the wall and Trump’s policies given that there have been repeated increases in illegal crossings at the US-Mexico border during his presidency.
Some Democrats and immigrant advocates have expressed concern about the potential for violence during Trump’s visit – especially given the recent insurgency and the president’s long-standing anti-immigrant rhetoric.
“It’s incredibly dangerous,” said Alida Garcia, vice president of advocacy at FWD.us, a bipartisan pro-immigration group. “We’ve seen from President Trump’s first two minutes of launching his campaign that he wanted to define a war in quotes along the border and against immigrants, Latinxes, asylum seekers and Mexicans.
The Trump administration has spent more than $ 15 billion on the border wall project – all of it either from Congressional appropriations or from embezzled funds from the Defense Department. None of this was paid for by Mexico – a promise Trump made several times during the 2016 election campaign, but which was shut down completely by Mexican officials under two different administrations.
Acting CBP commissioner Mark Morgan said on a press call last week that the agency already had funding to complete another 300 miles of barriers and intended to award contracts construction before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
Biden has previously vowed that “there won’t be another leg of the wall built” during his administration, but existing contracts could complicate efforts to stop some construction. He also said he would not demolish parts of the wall built under Trump. Biden will be under pressure to follow a long immigration to-do list that includes rescinding much of Trump’s immigration policies – and implementing more immigrant-friendly policies than President Barack Obama, dubbed the “chief evictor”.
Trump’s visit marks the first time he has gone out in public since the deadly riots on Capitol Hill. In the last days, he has been increasingly isolated, always complaining about the election he lost to Biden and not having any events on his daily schedule. Meanwhile, several Trump administration officials have resigned in the wake of the insurgency.
On Monday, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf ad he is said to resign from his post citing “recent events”, including recent court decisions challenging the legality of his appointment to the post. “These events and concerns increasingly serve to distract attention and resources from the important work of the department during this critical period of power transition,” Wolf written in a letter to the department.
The White House did not share until after the trip that would accompany the president on his trip to Texas or meet while there, but Trump yelled at Morgan, who was in the audience. Meanwhile, Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick were not present to meet with Trump. Instead, they were in Austin on Tuesday for the first day of the Texas legislative session, Texas Tribune reported.
Hidalgo County GOP members, however, “called out all conservatives, patriots and freedom fighters” on Facebook and Twitter to welcome Trump to the border area with posters. While Biden comfortably won in the majority Latin American county, this is one of the areas in south Texas where Trump made his most significant improvements in the 2020 election. Trump upped his numbers in County of Hidalgo by more than 23% compared to 2016, but still lost 17%.
Alamo town on Monday afternoon said the Trump administration has not formally contacted them regarding the president’s trip, which was announced over the weekend. Robert Salinas, city manager of Alamo, urged that all protests be “peaceful and respectful”. James Darling, Mayor of the neighboring town of McAllen, said he understands “that emotions are strong on both sides”, but called for peaceful protests.
Other Democrats on the Texas border, such as Representatives Vicente González and Filemon Vela, urged Trump on Monday to cancel the trip and elected officials to boycott his visit. Vela stressed that Trump should focus less on the wall and more on the pandemic, given how badly the Rio Grande Valley has been hit by Covid-19.
“If the president insists on continuing this pointless journey, he must not come forward empty-handed. It is expected to bring hundreds of thousands of doses of vaccine and the military personnel needed to help immunize residents of South Texas, ”Vela said.