One of the first things President Biden did when he took office was to halt construction of southern border barriers. Now, after millions of illegal border crossings and untold amounts of human and fentanyl trafficking, a surprising reversal. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has announced immediate action to resume construction of barriers where it had been called off. We were there nearly three years ago when the building of Trump’s wall was literally stopped overnight. Here’s a look back at what we saw then.
The following is a transcript of a report from "Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson." Watch the video by clicking the link at the end of the page.
A helicopter trip with border officials in Arizona is the clearest way to see how much new border wall was built during Donald Trump’s last months in office.
CBP Agent: This was all within the last four months, actually.
CBP Agent: They were working three shifts, 24/7.
CBP Agent: The speed that they put the wall up was absolutely amazing.
By air is also the best way to see a startling sight: hundreds of security gaps in the wall where gates were about to be installed...
CBP Agent: Do you see that gap right back there?
...but are now left wide open to drug and human trafficking.
CBP Agent: There's another gap coming up here at the right side right now.
Sharyl (on-camera): The Biden executive orders have had an immediate impact in the field. Work on the new 30-foot-tall border wall literally stopped overnight.
Sheriff Mark Dannels: This was a 24-hour operation. I mean this thing was lit up. You couldn't tell if it was day or night out here. And people were coming, going, fencing, cranes, big, huge equipment.
Sharyl: To build the wall?
Dannels: To build the wall. It's all gone.
Cochise County, Arizona Sheriff Mark Dannels is on the Homeland Security Advisory Council and is border security chairman of the National Sheriffs Association.
Dannels: They just walked away from it, just walked away.
He’s showing us one of the giant work sites along the border that was instantly abandoned upon President Biden’s executive order.
Dannels: They haven't filled the six-foot trenches. They left the equipment out there. They left the wood out there. It's just halted. And you can see around, it's a ghost town. The only thing moving out here is the cartels.
Back in the air, one of the more dramatic examples of what’s left undone for the moment.
CBP Agent: You can see where that cut goes right into that rock face. That's where the wall would have gone.
This section of border crossing the giant rock was prioritized for a wall because Mexican drug cartels have used it for years as a scouting point. Now? Another deserted project.
Sgt. Timothy Williams (July 2019): That big hole in the fence. That was cut.
A year and a half ago, Cochise County Sheriff’s Sergeant Timothy Williams showed us why this spot in Arizona's Coronado National Memorial — also prime cartel territory — was also about to become a top priority for a new border wall.
Sharyl (July 2019): So Mexico is right there?
Williams(July 2019): Yes, and we're probably being watched right now.
White House spokesman Jen Psaki defends the hasty work stoppage, insisting the mess left by President Trump is simply being cleaned up by President Biden.
Jen Psaki / White House Press Secretary (February 12): So as he said all along, “The declaration of a national emergency at our southern border was unwarranted.” He took formal steps to follow up on his executive order to end the declaration so that no more American tax dollars could be wasted on a border wall that does nothing to address or reform issues in our immigration system.
Sharyl: Now what?
Williams: Well, now we have a very, very nice road with no fencing whatsoever, that they had removed. So now it's another avenue of the illegals and the cartel to exploit us on the U.S. side, and how they can get more product and human smuggling in the United States.
Sharyl (on-camera): But now President Biden has waived 26 federal laws to make way for construction in an area of Texas that has seen some 245,000 illegal entries between October of 2022 and this past September. Homeland Security Chief Mayorkas insists there’s been no reversal, and that they have no choice but to spend money allocated for border barriers during the Trump administration.
Watch the update here.