ALAMO, Texas – President Donald Trump headed to South Texas on Tuesday for a final visit to the border wall he didn’t get to finish – a final chance for him to revel in progress toward delivering his signature campaign promise, and for opponents to celebrate his ouster.
Roughly 452 miles of barrier have been erected under Trump, far short of the “big beautiful wall” he promised but far more than most border residents and Democrats nationwide wanted.
“We’ve completed the wall,” Trump said as he left the White House, blatantly ignoring the fact that his election defeat meant about 314 miles of fencing he wanted won’t be built.
Like any wall, this one has two sides.
For Trump and others, the 30-foot steel bollards stand as a symbol of success and a tangible deterrent to migrants and smugglers.
For critics of the project, it’s a scar on the landscape, affront to law abiding immigrants, insult to a key ally and trading partner, and most of all, an outmoded method that gives a false sense of security, since most smuggling occurs through ports of entry.
Mexico never chipped in, and Trump eventually dropped any pretense that it would.
Trump flashed a closed-fisted salute as he stepped off Air Force One just before 1 p.m. in Harlingen, where Marine One awaited to provide an aerial tour. After landing in McAllen a half-hour later, Trump was expected to inspect part of the wall near Alamo, and make remarks.
The visit comes just a few hours before the House gives Vice President Mike Pence an ultimatum: invoke the 25th Amendment and strip Trump’s power, or Trump will be impeached on Wednesday for inciting last week’s riot at the Capitol.
Either way, both Trump and Pence leave office in eight days.
“We need this man to go away,” said Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa, who denounced “his stupid wall that no one wanted, that he failed to build, and that Mexico did not pay for.”
The president views the wall as a top part of his legacy.
On that point, his adversaries readily agree.
“He is the symbol of racism. He is the symbol of white nationalism,” Hinojosa said. “He comes to the Rio Grande Valley that is probably 98% Latino to celebrate the construction of a wall that defines everything that he stands for. It’s a sad thing for America.”
Congress refused to finance more than a fraction of the project. Trump cobbled most of the $15 billion he spent by sapping funds from the Pentagon budget, over objections from lawmakers in both parties.
Nearly all of the barrier built in the last four years replaced shorter, less sturdy fencing. About 25 miles was built along parts of the frontier that previously had no fencing.
President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to halt construction immediately, and to reverse Trump’s harsh anti-immigrant policies.
In McAllen, hundreds of Trump supporters gathered, vastly outnumbering a handful of opponents, among them Marsha Lee Martinez, who described herself as an activist.
“There are three winners here and thousands of losers,” she said, exaggerating the pro-Trump turnout as her side blasted hip hop with vulgar lyrics aimed at the outgoing president.