(NewsNation) — The White House is defending a Homeland Security decision to close four gaps in the border wall in an open area of southern Arizona near Yuma, one of the busiest sectors for illegal crossings. The Biden administration authorized completion of the Trump-funded U.S.-Mexico border wall on Thursday.
“There will not be another foot of wall constructed on my administration. Not another foot,” President Joe Biden said back in August 2020.
The president had pledged during his campaign to cease all future wall construction, but the administration later agreed to some barriers, citing safety. The Department of Homeland Security said Thursday the work to close four wide gaps in the wall near Yuma will better protect migrants who can slip down a slope or drown walking through a low section of the Colorado River.
When asked by a reporter why the Biden administration was building the border wall in Arizona, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre claimed the administration was “cleaning up the mess the prior administration left behind.”
Immigration attorney Saman Nasseri joined NewsNation to analyze the Biden administration’s decision to defend the wall’s construction.
“If you’re asking me point blank, I mean, he’s filling in an area of the wall that is known for people to be crossing through and coming through the border … regularly to get to that part of the Colorado River and they cross the river. And this is kind of like a landing ground for people from all over the world. They know this,” Nasseri said.
Even though the White House said the construction is an effort to clean up after the Trump administration, Nasseri said that the previous administration wanted those gaps and the wall filled as well. Now, Biden’s team is following up on that goal, getting the construction done.
“They’re taking that budget that was allocated for this,” Nasseri said.
Homeland Security said that the area presents safety and life hazards risks for both immigrants and agents, particularly around a section of the Colorado River.
A 5-year-old girl recently drowned while crossing the Colorado River in Yuma near this section, where the wall is scheduled to be reinforced. And authorities have reported 235,230 migrant encounters in the Yuma sector since October of 2021.
But Nasseri said he believes immigrants will find a way to get to the U.S. whether the wall is built or not.
“But you also have to think that a large percentage of those numbers are people that have come from other countries, not just Mexico. And if you think that people are going to get back on flights and go back to Africa, or Russia, or, you know, parts of Central America … I don’t think that little section of construction is going to deter them,” Nasseri said.
With the new construction to close off the gaps, Nasseri said new hotspots will occur in places such as Arizona, Texas and San Diego.
“They’re going to make their way through that wall because they’re determined. They came here with a purpose, they’re not just going to turn around and go because this, you know, this gap is gonna get filled in,” Nasseri said.
Nasseri thinks the White House is looking at this construction as a safety concern, especially since there have been numerous deaths in the area.
“I think the White House is trying to view it as a safety issue and maybe trying to get a better grasp and concentrate things more … We don’t have enough officers, there are not enough Border Protection Officers to be at every single section of the wall and every part of the border to see who’s coming in. So by doing this, you may be able to concentrate it a little bit more and put officers where they need to be so they can get a better idea of who’s coming in,” Nasseri said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.