Border Wall

Updated at 4:35 p.m. ET

Steve Bannon, President Trump's former political adviser, has pleaded not guilty through his counsel to wire-fraud and money-laundering charges related to an online scheme that federal prosecutors said was responsible for defrauding hundreds of thousands of people.

Bannon appeared via video link in the Southern District of New York hours after his arrest Thursday morning on a yacht off the Connecticut coast.

The pricetag for President Trump's border wall has topped $11 billion — or nearly $20 million a mile — to become the most expensive wall of its kind anywhere in the world.

In a status report last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which is overseeing wall construction, reported that $11 billion has been identified since Trump took office to construct 576 miles of a new "border wall system."

Over the past 41 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been buying up land on the lower Texas-Mexico border to protect one of the most biologically diverse regions in North America from developers and farmers.

But the Rio Grande Valley of Texas is a hotspot for illegal immigration and drug smuggling, as well as biodiversity. That's why the Trump administration is planning to build 110 miles of border wall through the valley (which is actually a river delta).

Julia Reihs / KUT

A federal appeals court late Wednesday ruled the Trump administration can use nearly $4 billion in military funds for construction of the president’s long-promised border wall.

Julia Reihs/KUT

From Texas Standard:

In 2019, the U.S.-Mexico border topped the news, in part, because of the promise that President Donald Trump had made to build a wall along it. While Trump's border wall continues to be a popular topic today, the construction of barriers along the border is nothing new.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf visited a construction site in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas on a windswept day last month and repeated a Trump administration pledge.

"We are on track to build 450 to 500 miles of new wall by the end of 2020," he told reporters. Behind him, steel panels atop a concrete levee wall, 30 feet in all, are rising from the sugar cane fields and bird sanctuaries of the valley — which is really a river delta. They are the first section of new border wall built under President Trump where there was no barrier before.

A section of the border fence
Callie Richmond for The Texas Tribune

EL PASO — When David Acevedo attended a meeting with officials from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers in Webb County last month, he thought he would come away with more information about the Trump administration’s border security plans.

The Trump administration has started the arduous process of canceling $3.6 billion in military construction projects to fund its plans to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper began notifying lawmakers Tuesday which projects will be canceled in their districts. Top Democrats immediately blasted the plan.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was among the first lawmakers to say his district will be impacted by the funding cuts, for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

As the Trump Administration prepares to accelerate construction of a border wall, Nayda Alvarez is preparing for the possibility that it will cut directly through her backyard.

Alvarez, a high-school teacher, received a letter last year from Customs and Border Protection about plans to build the wall on her family land in Starr County, Texas, that backs up to a bend in the Rio Grande.

"All this area was my grandfather's," she says. "So we've been here for about five or six generations. ... This is where we come fishing. We have our cookouts. We spend Easter here."

Reynaldo Leaf for The Texas Tribune

A federal judge has temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s policy of returning some asylum seekers to Mexico as they wait for their hearings in an American immigration court.

Updated at 11:17 p.m. ET

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen is leaving her post, President Trump announced Sunday as he continues to focus on restricting border crossings amid a recent surge. Nielsen had recently warned a congressional panel of a "catastrophe" on the southern border after the number of crossings hit a 10-year high.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

From Texas Standard:

On Friday, President Donald Trump tweeted that he would close some or all of the U.S. border with Mexico this week “[i]f Mexico doesn’t immediately stop ALL illegal immigration.” There are over 40 U.S.-Mexico border crossings and more than 300 ports of entry, and experts predict their closure would affect more than $1.7 billion worth of commerce every day. Areas along the U.S.-Mexico border would experience the most direct impact, but ripple effects could spread beyond the region.

Lynda Gonzalez for KUT

President Donald Trump’s administration on Monday said it will begin returning more migrants to Mexico after they apply for asylum in the U.S. and ordered Customs and Border Protection officials to speed up the redeployment of its agents to help the Border Patrol process a growing surge of migrants arriving at the border.

President Trump last week vetoed a congressional measure aimed at blocking his national emergency declaration. The next battle over that emergency declaration will likely be in the courts.

Meanwhile, planning for extending the border wall is already happening in Texas' Rio Grande Valley.

Updated at 4:56 p.m. ET

President Trump used his veto pen for the first time Friday, after Congress tried to reverse his national emergency declaration and rein in spending on a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Congressional critics do not appear to have the votes to override Trump's veto. So, as a practical matter, the administration can continue to spend billions of dollars more on border barriers than lawmakers authorized, unless and until the courts intervene.

The Democratic-led House approved by a 245-182 vote a resolution on Tuesday that would terminate President Trump's declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border — a declaration he made to allow him to access funds to build a wall without congressional consent.

Only 13 Republicans joined Democrats to oppose the president, signaling that Congress will not ultimately have the veto-proof margin required to override Trump.

Updated at 5:07 p.m. ET

President Trump's emergency declaration will potentially free up over $6 billion to build hundreds more miles of barriers along the Southern border. One of the places prioritized for construction is the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, where the majority of illegal crossings now occur. Residents there have strong views about the barrier, both pro and con.

Updated at 6:15 p.m. ET

Calling it "a great thing to do," President Trump declared a national emergency on Friday in order to help finance a long-promised wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. It's a highly unusual move from an unconventional president.

Updated at 5:03 p.m. ET

As the clock ticks toward a Friday deadline to avert another partial government shutdown, a new stumbling block has emerged in talks between congressional Democrats and the White House: Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention beds.

The congregation of about 1,700 Central American migrants in Piedras Negras, Mexico, this week sparked a swift response from the U.S. Hundreds of Army soldiers and law enforcement personnel tightened security measures in Eagle Pass. Residents accustomed to easy passage between two nations experienced long waits on the bridges, body searches, diminished commerce and unease over the sudden show of armed force in their small town.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has ordered the majority of National Guard troops deployed at her state's Southern border to withdraw, condemning what she called a "charade of border fear-mongering" by President Trump, who has warned of an immigration emergency in the region.

"I reject the federal contention that there exists an overwhelming national security crisis at the Southern border," Lujan Grisham said, adding that the area has "some of the safest communities in the country."

President Donald Trump's campaign announced Wednesday morning that he will hold a rally Feb. 11 in El Paso. Just hours earlier, the president reiterated in his State of the Union a repeatedly debunked claim that El Paso was one of the country's most dangerous cities until the Secure Fence Act of 2006 was passed and several miles of barrier were built there.

Eddie Gaspar for KUT

HOUSTON – The U.S. government is preparing to begin construction of more border walls and fencing in South Texas' Rio Grande Valley, likely on federally owned land set aside as wildlife refuge property.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

President Donald Trump's Hail Mary offer to trade protections for recipients of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program for border-wall funding could be dead on arrival as Congress heads back to work this week.

Updated at 5:28 p.m. ET

With negotiations over reopening the government at a standstill, President Trump offered to back temporary protections for some immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, many of whom are now adults, in exchange for funding for a wall on the Southern border.

In a White House speech on Saturday, Trump also offered to extend the Temporary Protected Status program that blocks deportation of certain immigrants fleeing civil unrest or natural disasters.

Jorge Salgado for The Texas Tribune

EL PASO — As the government shutdown approached its fifth week and Washington Democrats and President Donald Trump showed no signs of coming to an agreement on how to end the stalemate Tuesday, U.S. Border Patrol vehicles could be seen patrolling just north of the Rio Grande near El Paso’s Paso del Norte bridge.

Eddie Gaspar/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Texas Standard has been inviting new members of the Texas delegation on Capitol Hill for on-air meet-and-greet sessions. Recent news has made these conversations especially timely: earlier this week we spoke about the shutdown and the situation at the border with a newly minted Democratic representative, Colin Allred. Now it's Lance Gooden's turn; he's the Republican freshman elected in November to take the place of Jeb Hensarling representing District 5, which covers parts of Dallas and East Texas.

Gooden says he supports President Donald Trump's idea to declare a national emergency in order to secure funding for the border wall. He says Trump would need to do that "especially if he wants to get what he wants because I don't think he's gonna get it in Congress."

Eddie Gaspar for KUT

MCALLEN – Isidrio Leal knows what a combat zone looks like. And as he stood at the corner of 10th and Wichita streets Thursday holding a “Veterans for Peace” flag, the Iraq war veteran wanted one thing to be known: the border isn’t under siege.

Texas could help build President Donald Trump’s long-promised border wall, the president suggested Thursday — an idea that apparently came from the state’s outspoken lieutenant governor, a vocal advocate for border security.

Updated at 5:20 p.m. ET

President Trump says he is willing to declare a national emergency if Democrats don't go along with his demands for $5.7 billion for a border wall.

Trump's campaign for a border wall took him to McAllen, Texas, on Thursday for a visit to a Border Patrol station and a roundtable discussion with local officials, before heading to the Rio Grande.

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