Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf recently toured Southern Arizona's borderlands to inspect the ongoing wall construction projects. He also gauged his department's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wolf began his tour with a visit to the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales-a critical crossing point for millions of manufactured products and immigrants. He assessed the border patrols' response after the department announced a new series of restrictions at the borders. 

The new policies allowed border patrol agents to immediately turn back migrants who have an inadequate medical history, travel history, and identity documents. The Homeland Security secretary said it was challenging to perform medical checks and fully understand where the migrants have been or who they were exposed to if they presented little to no supporting documents. 

The travel restrictions led to a 70 percent drop in border traffic. Wolf claimed most of the expulsions conducted in less than two hours. The restrictions were imposed to prevent exposing migrants and border security officers to an outbreak at holding facilities near the ports of entry, he added.

Since March 21, border agents have turned back at least 20,000 migrants. This led to a sharp drop of migrants taken into U.S. custody. He toured the central processing facility located in the Tucson sector as part of his visit. The holding facility currently houses four migrants. 

After visiting the border facilities, Wolf reportedly got on a helicopter to take an aerial tour of the ongoing wall construction in Southern Arizona. The ongoing construction at the border wall was allegedly funded by the Trump administration, who took $3.8 billion from the Pentagon budget meant for fighter jets and other military equipment. 

Despite the coronavirus restrictions, construction at the sites has continued at full speed. Wolf said the crew has completed over 181 miles of the wall and is replacing 43 miles of barriers. The sector is expected to see 400 miles of fencing by December this year, he added.

Wolf's visit has garnered the attention of the critics of the border wall. Senior Democrat and U.S. Representative Rail Grijalva lambasted the homeland secretary's tour and the ongoing construction at the border. He claimed the visit was an attempt to deflect the country's attention from the administration's response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Grijalva noted that the state of Arizona is still lagging behind other states in terms of coronavirus testing capabilities and medical resources. He also claimed the construction workers tasked to build the wall had 'little regard' to social distancing measures. 

Several environmental groups also denounced the construction, claiming the 800-mile Arizona Trail would soon be the site of the wall and a calamity of roads and activity. Advocates of the trail hoped to convince the federal government to make a few changes to their plans to help preserve the beauty of the area. 

According to reports from the CBP, the plans for the Arizona wall includes constructing a 30-foot-high steel bollard fencing while replacing the fencing in other areas. One 2-mile section of the new wall would run through the Tohono O'odham Nation, while another 2-mile section would end just south of the Coronado National Memorial. The new fence would obliterate the view of the Arizona Trail's southern terminus. 

According to Matthew Nelson, executive director of the Arizona Trail Association, the construction would leave a 'permanent scar' in the national trail. He urged the CBP to revise the plans to minimize the impacts it would have on the track while still fulfilling the interest of homeland security.  

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