CRISIS ON THE BORDER: Crews begin wall construction in Yuma

More than 60 miles of fencing being built
Published: Oct. 4, 2019 at 8:38 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The crisis on the border is getting major reinforcements.

Construction is underway on more than 60 miles of fencing near the Yuma border.

It comes with a price tag of nearly $1.3 billion — money that was diverted from military construction projects under president Trump’s National Emergency Declaration.

The new wall replaces old vehicle and pedestrian fencing currently in place, but it will be higher than anything the U.S. has ever had.

Vinny Dulesky, special operations supervisor for Yuma Sector Public Affairs, said John Hopkins University conducted studies on the height of the border wall. Most of the new wall is 30 feet.

“At what height would they mentally not want to make that leap? That height was about 26.5 feet. ... It’s not designed to stop, it’s designed to slow down," he said.

The new border wall will extend 6 to 10 feet underground and will be filled with concrete and anti-grip paint to make it tougher to cut through or climb.

“It’s going to be a big game changer. This is an area where we’ve had groups of 100 plus," Dulesky said. “They are going to have to take the time to negotiate it, it’s going to be enough time for our cameras to pick it up, for our agents to get out here.”

There is one technicality -- the Colorado River acts as the true border in some spots.

"We do have about 100 feet or so from the river to the actual wall that is a part of the United States,” Dulesky said.

Construction is underway of the new border wall new Yuma, Arizona. The wall replaces old...
Construction is underway of the new border wall new Yuma, Arizona. The wall replaces old vehicle barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.(Source: Angelica Carrillo KOLD News 13)

Across the border in San Luis, Mexico, Emilio Maldonado and his family sit at the border. They’ve been there for three months, a common reality at the port of entry.

A white piece of tagboard shows numbers with X’s, representing families who have crossed and families still waiting to make their asylum claims. The Maldonado family is No. 843 — there is still a long way to go, but they are hoping people don’t show.

The family doesn’t have plans to return back to southern Mexico. Emilio said they are already so close and have given up a lot to get where they are.

Emilio says he hasn’t heard of the wall being built on the other side but did consider crossing illegally if it meant helping his family. Border agents are hoping they don’t even try.

“For the normal family unit, they’re not going to attempt something this high,” Dulesky said.

While the number of arrests has decreased in recent months, agents in Yuma aren’t backing down anytime soon.

These main projects in Yuma are set to be completed by the end of the year. Yuma Sector has also put in requests for more agents and more border security technology.

”The mistake we would be making is to get rid of all of our resources and then the traffic come back and now we’re back at square one trying to deal with it again,” Dulesky said.

Copyright 2019 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.