This week, the U.S. Senate voted to uphold President Donald Trump’s veto of Democrat-sponsored legislation reversing his use of military base project money to pay for the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

The 53-36 vote was well short of the two-thirds required to overturn the veto. The vote mirrored ones last month and in March in which a number of Republicans broke with Trump in defending lawmakers’ power of the purse. The military projects in question included base schools and target ranges.

In February, Trump declared the security situation along the border a national emergency. That decision enabled him to take up to $3.6 billion from such projects to finance wall construction beyond the miles that lawmakers have been willing to fund.

The funding is being well-used.  The Pentagon reports that about one mile of construction is completed daily at the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

About a mile of border wall along the border with Mexico is constructed each day, according to the Pentagon.

The Army Corps of Engineers awarded about $2.5 billion in projects in April and May to build 129 miles of the border wall in New Mexico, Arizona and California. With the exception of $3 million, the entire $2.5 billion pool of money is obligated on contract. The remaining chunk will be obligated before the end of September, the Pentagon said.

Jonathan Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, said the Department of Homeland Security has the lead on prioritizing which sections of wall get built first.

“We’re working on their priorities,” Hoffman told reporters Thursday. “We’re relying on border patrol agents on the ground, the people who have the most knowledge, to tell us where the border wall should be built.”

In San Diego, immigration officials are indicating the area’s new wall may be helping bring illegal border crossing numbers down.

How effective the new barrier is being, in terms of both deterring migrants and stopping crossings, is tough to calculate. One thing that is clear is that its erection is coinciding with a sharp decline in apprehensions, although correlation does not necessarily equate to causation. In August, there were 3,326 apprehensions in the San Diego sector, down from 6,880 in March and 5,884 in May.

That reflects a borderwide trend that has seen apprehensions along the border as a whole drop almost 65 percent since May, as part of a multi-faceted strategy from the administration that has included not only barrier construction, but also agreements such as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) — by which tens of thousands of migrants have been returned to Mexico while they await their immigration hearings.

Despite (or maybe because of) the wall’s potential effectiveness, progressives are making new arguments against border wall construction. Scientific “experts” are now playing the climate card, indicating that the border wall will cause flooding in Texas.

When rains fall and creeks rise, residents of this small city in the state’s south know which streets to avoid as floodwaters race toward its namesake river just a few hundred feet downslope. Now, with a steel border fence as high as 30 feet slated to be built between the city and the Rio Grande—which in Texas doubles as the U.S.-Mexico border—locals worry that flooding will worsen, just as it has in other border communities where fences and waterways intersect.

However, the acting Director of the Bureau of Land Management was in the San Diego area recently and asserted that the border wall was very protective of the environment.

“The BLM has a statutory mandate to manage and protect public lands, and right now we can’t do our job,” said Pendley, an attorney who was a deputy director at the bureau before being appointed to the head position in an acting status in July. He has made past statements that position him as a hardliner on illegal immigration.

“We have to increase our ability to protect land that the public wants us to protect,” he added.

Douglas Herrema, BLM field manager for the California Desert District, told Pendley that wildfires sparked by unauthorized immigrants as warming fires or signal fires posed perhaps the biggest risk. Seven brush fires in the area so far this year have been attributed to “illegal activity,” officials said, with one blaze growing to 30 acres.

As a Californian who nearly lost my home in the 2003 wildfires, I appreciate the environmental protections the border wall offers.

 
 
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