LAS CRUCES – As part of its plan to divert up to $1 billion to construct 57 miles of physical barriers along the Mexican border, the Department of Defense is proposing 46 miles of new barrier structures in Luna and Doña Ana counties, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said this week.
Udall, who learned about the proposed New Mexico structures as a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, explained in a statement, “the project includes 46 miles of vehicle barrier replacement beginning approximately 17.5 miles west of the Columbus Port of Entry continuing east in non-contiguous segments to approximately 35 miles east of the Columbus Port of Entry.”
On Thursday, Udall spokesman Ned Adriance clarified an initial report by Udall’s staff, telling the Sun-News that information provided by the Department of Defense indicated existing vehicle barriers would be replaced with segments of “pedestrian fence,” consisting of 18-foot high steel bollard structures.
The structures have been alternately referred to by President Donald Trump as a fence, “steel slates,” “steel barriers,” and a wall. In a Jan. 31 post on Twitter, Trump wrote, “Lets just call them WALLS from now on and stop playing political games! A WALL is a WALL!”
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told the U.S. House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday the Pentagon was executing an order from President Trump, who declared a national emergency on Feb. 15 after Congress appropriated less than the $5.7 billion he had requested for a border wall.
Udall argued that the plan compromises military preparedness and drug interdiction programs.
In New Mexico, the proposal includes potentially diverting up to $187.5 million in funds for projects at White Sands Missile Range, Holloman Air Force Base, Kirtland Air Force Base and Cannon Air Force Base.
Udall, who announced on Monday that he would not seek re-election to the Senate in 2020, has introduced legislation to block the emergency reappropriations.
Shanahan told the House committee more barriers are needed to “block drug-smuggling corridors across international boundaries of the United States in support of counter-narcotic activities of federal law enforcement agencies,” despite data showing that narcotics smuggling is caught most frequently at ports of entry.
A vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday failed to override President Trump’s veto of a congressional resolution rejecting his emergency declaration.
U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M., who sits on the House Armed Services Committee that questioned Shanahan on Tuesday, said the declaration means “billions of dollars appropriated for Department of Defense programs and military construction projects will be misdirected.”