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Border town pushes to close wall gaps

Yuma, Arizona has seen a particularly high influx of migrants and illegal crossings at the border. Now the city is looking at options to control it.
Immigration Asylum
Posted at 8:51 AM, Apr 06, 2022

Along the 30-foot border wall, tracks along the bank  mark the journey from Mexico into Arizona.

Migrants cross the muddy Morelos dam , with some clutching onto young children. Families walk until they reach a big gap along the border wall in Yuma County, Arizona where they wait for border patrol. It's an escape for some but a strain for a county with limited resources.

“We need to get these gaps filled up," Yuma Mayor Douglas Nicholls said. "There's 52 gaps, 52 gates missing in the border, and about seven miles of fencing missing and a lot of electronics missing."

In December, the Yuma mayor declared a humanitarian crisis at the border.

Since October, agents have encountered nearly 119,000 migrants along the Yuma sector, which includes part of California.

That’s more than in fiscal year 2021 altogether and nearly 14times more than 2020 during the pandemic. 

Immigrants say their journey is one of life or death. Jonas, who did not reveal his last name, said he was fleeing the violence in his home country.

Jonas says he waited more than eight months in Mexico with his family in hopes of claiming asylum, and with no clear path, he grew desperate.

 "Give us an opportunity," Jonas said. "We are in need too. Our country is suffering from a crisis."  

Panting and thirsty, five men from West Africa sought water. They fled political unrest in Senegal.

Like clockwork, border patrol agents load immigrants onto buses — their lives packed into a carry-on suitcase or less .

"106 different countries have crossed here so far this year," said Jonathan Lines, Yuma County supervisor.

Lines met Alejandro Mayorkas, the secretary of Homeland Security, and asked for more technology and agents to secure the border.

NEWSY'S ADI GUAJARDO: What was the commitment from the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, how many gaps will be filled?  

JONATHAN LINES: To secure this area and to close up the 11 gaps that they identified in that meeting.

It's a move counter to President Biden’s campaign promise, saying, "...not another foot of wall constructed under my administration.”   

GUAJARDO: On a one to 10 scale, how confident are you that these gaps are going to be filled by the end of the year?

LINES: About a seven.

Gaps along the border wall range anywhere from the size of a door to more than 12 feet, and some gaps are even bigger. 

In December, Mayorkas authorized Customs and Border Protection to address what he called life, safety and environmental remediation projects in California, Arizona and Texas. 

The projects include closing “small” gaps that remain open from prior construction.

Myles Traphagen with Wildlands Network has been tracking the construction of the border wall for several years. He fears more wall will put humans and wildlife in danger.

“If we build border walls across these species habitats, they could suffer from regional extrication, which means that that's a localized extinction event," Traphagen said.

The Sonoran pronghorn, the bighorn sheep, the jaguar and other animals migrate through Arizona.

In 2021, border patrol data shows migrant deaths along the southwest border reached a historic high.

“These border walls are essentially killing machines, and they're killing machines for humans and for wildlife," Traphagen said.

Yuma County leaders say the gaps will be filled by Sept. 1. DHS has yet to respond to calls and emails from Newsy.

For some, the border wall defines security. For others, it marks another hurdle they must overcome to pave a path of opportunities for the next generation.

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