COLUMBUS – The U.S. Department of Defense proposed to construct 46 miles of new barrier structures along Luna and Doña Ana counties last week.
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., who’s a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense indicated to the Las Cruces Sun-News last Tuesday that 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.
Udall’s staff then clarified on Wednesday telling the Sun-News information provided by the Department of Defense indicated existing vehicle barriers would be replaced with segments of pedestrian fencing comprising of 18-foot high steel bollard structures.
Russell Johnson, a cattle rancher whose ranch expands to the edges of the U.S. and Mexico border just 20 miles west of Columbus, shared with the Deming Headlight his experiences with incoming traffic of illegal immigrants at the beginning of the year, from break-ins, litter, theft and damage to his property and livestock.
At the time, Johnson said he did not wish to disclose the amount of property acreage he owns but told the Deming Headlight the construction project could include part of his cattle ranch.
“It looks like 17.5 miles would be at the end of the vehicle barrier in front of the little village across from our ranch in Mexico called Las Chepas,” Johnson said. “Provided Google Maps measuring is accurate, the new barrier would start on our ranch where the barbed wire begins. We will still have 3 miles of barbed wire fence and around 4 miles of the Normandy style barrier further west.”
Johnson further indicated that he’s glad there’s some momentum building to address the incoming traffic, but hopes that it doesn’t come to a halt as he finds Udall’s efforts to block President Donald Trump’s national emergency for a border wall discouraging.
“They need to build the barrier from one end of the border to the other,” Johnson said. “With our ranch still having barbed wire fence and inadequate vehicle barrier, it will continue to be a weak link exploited by smugglers and people trying to come to our country illegally.”
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told the U.S. House Armed Services Committee on last 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 the 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.
“The Department of Defense should be standing up for our military personnel and readiness needs, not allowing themselves to become a piggy bank for a president’s pet project,” Udall said in a media release.
Udall has also announced last week he won’t be seeking a third term.
Xchelzin Peña may be reached at 575-305-5532 or at email@example.com.
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