Explainer

How the last five presidents played a part in building America’s border wall

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In March, illegal migrant crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border exceeded a 22-year high, according to the Department of Homeland Security. A few weeks later, 53 migrants were found dead inside an abandoned tractor-trailer in San Antonio, Texas. 

DHS called it the deadliest smuggling case in U.S. history.  

While the solution to address immigration is not simple, every president from Clinton to Biden is responsible for building some type of barrier along the 1954-mile border with Mexico. 

“Every place in the country is rightly disturbed by the large number of illegal aliens entering our country,” President Bill Clinton said during the 1995 State of the Union

His comments came a year after initiating Operation Gatekeeper, an immigration plan aimed at preventing illegal immigration in cities like San Diego. The controversial plan doubled the amount of fencing at the border to 62 miles and was declared a failure by members of Congress.

When President George W. Bush took office, he picked up where Clinton left off. In 2006, he signed the Secure Fence Act, a bill that then-Senator Barack Obama supported. 

Most of America’s border wall was built during the Bush and Obama administrations. Under Bush, 526 miles were constructed and 137 miles went up during the Obama-Biden years. 

Then came Donald Trump campaigning to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it. Our neighbors to the south never did foot the bill, but President Trump did fund a $15 billion, 738-mile border project. 

According to DHS, only 73 miles of Trump’s border project focused on new construction, and the remaining 365 miles built focused on replacing crumbling or outdated parts of the wall. 

More construction was planned but the project was immediately paused once Joe Biden was sworn into office. On day one, President Biden signed an executive order to halt Trump’s border wall project, fulfilling a campaign promise. 

“There will not be another foot of wall constructed in my administration,” Biden said during an interview on the campaign. 

Nearly two years later, DHS has signaled a shift. In a statement, the agency said it intends to replace a barrier, specifically in San Diego, California known to locals as Friendship Park

This decision came as the U.S. has reached an agreement with Mexico for it to pay $1.5 billion in border security upgrades, according to ABC News.  

JIMMIE JOHNSON: THERE’S BEEN A SERIES OF TROUBLING HEADLINES COMING FROM THE SOUTHERN BORDER.

ANCHOR: “The tragedy in San Antonio now appears to be the deadliest human smuggling case in US history.”

ANCHOR: “The United Nations just labeled the US-Mexico border the deadliest crossing in the entire world.”

JIMMIE: LAWMAKERS ARE AT ODDS OVER A SOLUTION, BUT ONE CONSTANT FOR DECADES HAS BEEN THE CONSTRUCTION OF A BORDER WALL.

EVERY PRESIDENT, FROM 42 TO 46, HAS CONTRIBUTED BY DESIGN OR DEFAULT TO BUILDING SOME BARRIER ALONG THE MORE THAN 19-HUNDRED MILES OF BORDER WITH MEXICO. 

DESPITE DECADES OF EFFORTS – SCENES LIKE THESE ARE A CONSTANT REMINDER – THE SOLUTION ISN’T SIMPLE.

ANCHOR: ”Along a roadway in southern Mexico a seemingly endless stream of people making their way on foot to the united states.”

JIMMIE: IN MARCH, MIGRANT CROSSINGS AT THE U-S MEXICO BORDER EXCEEDED A TWENTY-TWO-YEAR HIGH.

SO, HOW DID WE GET HERE? LET ME EXPLAIN!

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: “Every place in this country is rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country.”

JIMMIE: PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON’S COMMENTS ON IMMIGRATION IN 19-95 CAME A YEAR AFTER INITIATING OPERATION GATEKEEPER – AN EFFORT AIMED AT PREVENTING ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION IN CITIES LIKE SAN DIEGO.

THE PLAN WAS CONTROVERSIAL AND DESPITE DOUBLING THE AMOUNT OF FENCING AT THE BORDER – WAS DECLARED A FAILURE BY MEMBERS OF CONGRESS.

SEVERAL YEARS LATER, PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH PICKED UP WHERE CLINTON LEFT OFF. 

IN 20-06, HE SIGNED THE SECURE FENCE ACT, WHICH THEN-SENATOR BARACK OBAMA VOTED TO CONSTRUCT.

COINCIDENTALLY, MOST OF THE BORDER WALL WAS BUILT DURING THE BUSH AND OBAMA PRESIDENCIES. 

UNDER BUSH 526 MILES OF WALL WERE CONSTRUCTED.

AND DURING THE OBAMA-BIDEN ADMINISTRATION, 137 MILES OF BORDER WALL WENT UP.   

THEN CAME PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, WHO CAMPAIGNED TO BUILD A WALL AND HAVE MEXICO PAY FOR IT.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: “We’re going to build a wall. It’s going to be built.”

JIMMIE: WHILE OUR NEIGHBORS TO THE SOUTH NEVER DID FOOT THE BILL, TRUMP DID FUND A 15-BILLION-DOLLAR BORDER WALL PROJECT. 

BUT ONLY 73 MILES FOCUSED ON NEW CONSTRUCTION. THE REMAINDER FOCUSED ON REPLACING CRUMBLING OR OUTDATED PARTS OF THE WALL. 

MORE CONSTRUCTION WAS PLANNED – BUT THE PROJECT WAS PAUSED ONCE PRESIDENT BIDEN TOOK OFFICE.

ON DAY ONE, BIDEN SIGNED AN EXECUTIVE ORDER TO HALT TRUMP’S BORDER PROJECT. 

BIDEN: “There will not be another foot wall constructed in my administration.”

JIMMIE: BUT NOW – D-H-S HAS SIGNALED A SHIFT, RELEASING A STATEMENT SAYING THEY INTEND TO WORK ON MORE SECTIONS OF THE BORDER WALL – SPECIFICALLY IN CALIFORNIA. 

SO EVEN WITH MORE MILES OF THE WALL, THE PROBLEM SEEMS TO BE BUILDING. 

PROMPTING SOME STATE LAWMAKERS TO FILL IN THE GAPS. 

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In March, illegal migrant crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border exceeded a 22-year high, according to the Department of Homeland Security. A few weeks later, 53 migrants were found dead inside an abandoned tractor-trailer in San Antonio, Texas. 

DHS called it the deadliest smuggling case in U.S. history.  

While the solution to address immigration is not simple, every president from Clinton to Biden is responsible for building some type of barrier along the 1954-mile border with Mexico. 

“Every place in the country is rightly disturbed by the large number of illegal aliens entering our country,” President Bill Clinton said during the 1995 State of the Union

His comments came a year after initiating Operation Gatekeeper, an immigration plan aimed at preventing illegal immigration in cities like San Diego. The controversial plan doubled the amount of fencing at the border to 62 miles and was declared a failure by members of Congress.

When President George W. Bush took office, he picked up where Clinton left off. In 2006, he signed the Secure Fence Act, a bill that then-Senator Barack Obama supported. 

Most of America’s border wall was built during the Bush and Obama administrations. Under Bush, 526 miles were constructed and 137 miles went up during the Obama-Biden years. 

Then came Donald Trump campaigning to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it. Our neighbors to the south never did foot the bill, but President Trump did fund a $15 billion, 738-mile border project. 

According to DHS, only 73 miles of Trump’s border project focused on new construction, and the remaining 365 miles built focused on replacing crumbling or outdated parts of the wall. 

More construction was planned but the project was immediately paused once Joe Biden was sworn into office. On day one, President Biden signed an executive order to halt Trump’s border wall project, fulfilling a campaign promise. 

“There will not be another foot of wall constructed in my administration,” Biden said during an interview on the campaign. 

Nearly two years later, DHS has signaled a shift. In a statement, the agency said it intends to replace a barrier, specifically in San Diego, California known to locals as Friendship Park

This decision came as the U.S. has reached an agreement with Mexico for it to pay $1.5 billion in border security upgrades, according to ABC News.  

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