Decade ends with new border walls going up in South Texas

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DONNA, Texas (Border Report) — As 2019 closes out, Border Report took a look at the progress of new border walls being built in South Texas, which President Donald Trump has made a priority of his administration.

There are currently three new border wall projects underway in South Texas, but only two sites — Donna, Texas, and Starr County near the town of Fronton — have steel bollard panels already built. The other site, just west of Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, has only had the land cleared and an access road built, U.S. Border Patrol agents said.

On Tuesday morning, Border Patrol agents escorted Border Report onto the site south of the town of Donna, Texas, where 33 panels of the 18-foot-tall wall have been built a few miles east of the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.

Here are photos of the border wall south of Donna, Texas, as of New Year’s Eve 2019. (All photos by Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)

Congress appropriated $1.375 billion for a wall on the Southwest border in Fiscal 2019, but lawmakers exempted Santa Ana and Bentsen State Park and a few other historical sites in South Texas from having a border wall cut through it. Others include historic La Lomita Chapel, the Vista del Mar Ranch tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, and the National Butterfly Center.

Earlier this month, Congress once again voted to appropriate $1.375 billion for border wall funds for Fiscal 2020 and exempted the above-mentioned sites, as well as the historic Eli Jackson Cemetery and other historic cemeteries in South Texas, said U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Texas who sits on the House Appropriations Committee.

Read Border Report stories on Congress voting on 2020 border wall funds and the Eli Jackson Cemetery here.

Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf, far right, on Nov. 21, 2019, tours the border wall being built south of Donna, Texas. (Border Report File Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

Construction began in late October on this segment of border wall in Donna, Texas, which Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf visited in November and gave high praise. It is part of a border wall project that is 8-miles-long — although not contiguous — and one which costs an estimated $26.5 million per mile.

On Sept. 29, CBP in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a contract to Gibraltar-Caddell Joint Venture for up to $296 million to build 22 miles of noncontiguous border wall starting east of Santa Ana. The 18-30 foot tall steel bollards are to fill in the gaps of the existing wall, and have at the top a five-foot anti-climb steel plate.

The new border wall, right, being built south of Donna, Texas, is to connect with the existing wall, far left, where a U.S. Border Patrol truck sits on Dec. 31, 2019. (Border Report Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

“Walls are extremely effective in changing the operational environment in which we work,” Rodolfo Karisch, Chief Patrol Agent of the Rio Grande Valley Sector, said in a news release announcing the start of construction here.

Nationwide, an estimated 88 miles of new border wall has been built this past year, according to the latest data supplied on Nov. 29. Trump has vowed that a total of 450 new miles will be built on the Southwest border by the end of 2020.

Visit the BorderReport.com homepage for the latest exclusive stories and breaking news about issues along the United States-Mexico border.

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