EL PASO, Texas — "Wow" was all I was able to say as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Blackhawk flew alongside the U.S.-Mexico border and the difference between the old "wall" system and the new wall system under construction came into view.
"This is why I wanted to fly," Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan keyed over the Blackhawk's comms, saying the above-ground view shows how the old wall compared to the new one, which was directed to be built under President Trump's famous promise for stronger border security.
The Blackhawk landed in New Mexico and we got out to see the difference up close. The old "wall" that covers large lengths of the border is laughably easy to get over. It consists of barbed wire fencing, held together by fragile-looking wooden posts and Normandy barriers intended to stop illegal vehicle crossings.
Morgan said he does not accept the mockery from Democrats who say the Trump administration has barely built any new walls in places where no walls existed because the old "walls" were functionally useless in stopping foot and vehicular crossings.
"I think you can see for yourself...it's a political narrative, right? They want to score some political points by saying, 'Oh, it's just replacement.' What I would say to those individuals [is] they haven't been here," Morgan said.
"This is what we had for a very long time, right? Wood and barbed wire. That is what we had to stop people. And then we upgraded to [the Normandy barriers] and this is a joke," Morgan said, as he explained how smugglers developed techniques to cut through the Normandy barriers so they could move them aside to let vehicles through and then move them back into place.
"So when you see this 30-foot high wall, concrete and steel into the ground, yeah, it's brand new," Morgan said, adding the wall is part of a system, complete with roads, lighting, and surveillance that helps deter illegal crossings or slow down illegal crossers so border patrol agents have time to respond.
"We need it all, including the wall. One element by itself is not the end-all solution. The wall doesn't address the problem by itself, nor does technology...last time I checked, technology can't apprehend anybody," he said.
El Paso Border Patrol Chief Gloria Chavez told Townhall the new 30-foot high wall system is the best she has seen in deterring and slowing down illegal crossings.
"You just have to visually see the difference in the structure and how sturdy a 30-foot border wall system really [works] for our border security," Chavez said. With more wall systems being put into place, Chavez says they are able to redirect manpower. An area previously requiring six to ten border patrol agents can now be monitored by two. Resources are able to be redirected so they can address other incursions such as tunnels and drones.
Townhall Media/Julio Rosas
The new wall system is not the only noticeable difference between President Barack Obama's and Trump's administration, said Morgan and Chavez. They pointed to the much better relations they have with their Mexican counterparts and how motivated they are in stopping people before they get a chance to illegally cross into the United States.
With the presidential election coming up and a chance the next president could be former Vice President Joe Biden (D), Morgan warned if the new tools the Trump administration has given CBP, such as the wall system, are taken away by a Biden administration, a new disaster on the southwest border could emerge.
"Because what you're doing, you're sending a message right now when you say that you're going to give protections through sanctuary city laws. When you tell them that we're going to reward you for illegally entering this country...and you tell them you're going to stop building a wall as a policy, you're sending the signal, you're incentivizing individuals, to illegally come here," he said.
As of Wednesday, CBP says 109 miles of the new border wall system has been built in the El Paso Sector, with 36 miles currently under construction.