SANTA TERESA – President Donald Trump started the construction Monday of what the Border Patrol now calls a “wall” along this stretch of U.S.-Mexico border, as New Mexico’s governor announced that she will begin sending National Guard troops there later this week.
“This is the beginning in this sector of the president’s border wall,” Chief Patrol Agent Aaron A. Hull of the El Paso Sector said Monday. The sector includes two counties in West Texas and all of New Mexico.
The plan to replace 20 miles of vehicle barriers with a fence made with thick steel posts known as bollards was approved last year. The project will cost about $73.3 million and take about a year to complete.
A third of the U.S.-Mexico border now has an existing barrier that until Monday has been referred to as a “fence” by the Border Patrol and other federal agencies working the area. The structure going up near Santa Teresa is to be exactly the same as the fence that now exists in Sunland Park.
Funding for it is part of the Customs and Border Protection budget approved in 2017 that includes money to upgrade or build new infrastructure.
Hull announced the construction during a news conference a mile west of the Santa Teresa border crossing, where the existing fence ends and vehicle barriers begin. He was flanked by a pair of Border Patrol agents on horseback, two more on ATVs as well as a canine unit.
Meanwhile, in a few days Border Patrol Agents will have additional help from the New Mexico National Guard, Gov. Susana Martinez announced Monday.
Martinez said, “The safety of all New Mexicans is our first and foremost concern which is why our soldiers will participate in this operation. Later this week, over 80 New Mexico Guard soldiers will report to serve in a support role for the U.S. Border Patrol in this operation.”
They are the first of a force of 250 members of the New Mexico National Guard deployed by president Trump with the governor’s approval. President Trump asked for troops to help on the border until he can build a wall.
Extending the barrier in Santa Teresa will help agents stop drugs and illegal border crossings, according to the Border Patrol.
In fiscal 2017, Border Patrol agents in the El Paso sector apprehended 25,193 people crossing the border. Agents also seized 34,189 pounds of marijuana and 140 pounds of cocaine.
“It’s going to be harder to get over, harder to get through, harder to get underneath. It’s going to have a five-foot, anti-scaling plate at the top,” Hull said of the structure that will be up to 18 feet high depending on the location.
One of the prototypes designed for a “big beautiful wall” after the president promised to build one during his campaign is a bollard hybrid. But Hull said the structure going up in Santa Teresa will be the same as the existing bollard barrier between Sunland Park and Anapra, Mexico.
“The wall that we’re using in Anapra is the same wall that’s going to be here. It works for us, and it’s the same wall we’re going to put out here for the next 20 miles,” said Hull.
“It’s a fence,” said Maria Lourdes Campos Nuñez, an Anapra resident who was standing at the existing structure. The factory worker lives with her two children in a small house nearby.
Her 18-year-old son, Miguel Obete, said he had thought President Trump’s “wall was going to be built with cement.”
“I can climb this one,” he said of the bollard fence.