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The timing of the Biden administration’s announcement to complete open segments of the border wall near Yuma, Arizona, could be to “help one of their own,” said Brandon Judd, president for the National Border Patrol Council, as Sen. Mark Kelly, (D-AZ), faces a tough re-election fight amid criticism from the GOP over border security and immigration.
Department of Homeland Security Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas announced Thursday that he had approved construction to close several gaps in the border wall in the Yuma sector that have become highly-trafficked spots for border-crossers. Mayorkas said the gaps were a safety risk for migrants due to the proximity to the Morelos Dam.
Kelly for months has been advocating for approval to close those gaps, and celebrated the announcement in a statement Thursday, taking credit for finally being able to “secure a commitment from the administration to get this done,” according to his office.
The actual construction could be months away, however. Kelly told News 11 Yuma in an interview Thursday that he expects the first contract to be finalized in September, with construction schedule still to be finalized. And the DHS announcement that “Prior to construction, DHS will engage in standard environmental planning and conduct stakeholder outreach and consultation,” while moving “as expeditiously as possible.”
Sen. Mark Kelly hears from a CBP officer in Douglas, Arizona.
(Sen. Mark Kelly office )
The timing of the DHS announcement comes just three months before Kelly faces a challenging re-election in Arizona where the GOP is hoping to pick up a seat in the Senate.
Judd told Fox News Digital that he wouldn’t be surprised if the decision was politically-motivated, and called the announcement “nothing more than smoke and mirrors.”
“The Administration knows that border security is one of the biggest issues in Arizona so an announcement like this especially at this time makes sense to try to help one of their own. But if people will do the proper research they will find that filling in the gaps with the current situation in that particular area does not help improve border security,” Judd said.
DHS did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment on whether any other segments of the border wall are slated for completion. President Biden made it clear during his 2020 presidential campaign that “not another foot” of wall would be built along the U.S.-Mexico border in his administration. The White House did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment, but press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told Fox News’ Peter Doocy Friday that the Biden administration was “not finishing up a wall, we are cleaning up the mess the prior administration made.”
A spokesperson for Kelly’s campaign told Fox News that “Senator Kelly’s work is not governed by political statements and instead is entirely informed by representing the interests of Arizona, which is why he’s called for closing gaps in the border where they make sense since 2019.”
A Border Patrol agent walks between a gap along the border wall between the US and Mexico in Yuma, Arizona on June 1, 2022.
(PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)
The spokesperson pointed out that the mayor of Yuma had praised Kelly for the border wall action, and reiterated years of efforts to address concerns of border communities. “Senator Kelly also knows that more needs to be done to make the southern border secure, orderly, and humane which is why in addition to this announcement, Kelly also helped secure $1 billion in resources to CBP,” the spokesperson added.
Just last week, the Republican National Committee used the unfinished Yuma border wall sections to attack Kelly in a press release, calling the border wall gaps “one of many betrayals” from the first-term senator.
“Mark Kelly doesn’t care about the border — he has rubberstamped Biden’s open border agenda every step of the way. Arizonans will vote him out come November,” RNC spokesperson Will O’Grady told Fox News Digital Friday.
Closing the Yuma border wall gaps are only part of the issue facing the region, Judd told Fox News: “The current issue, especially in Yuma is not one that can be solved by infrastructure, it can only be solved by legislation or policy.”
While walls are helpful tools in apprehending individuals and seizing contraband, walls “do not address asylum, which is the current problem in that specific area of Yuma,” Judd said, since cartels use asylum seekers.
“So while I am happy that the gaps will be completed, the completion will assist when individuals are trying to get away. But because everyone knows that this administration’s policies are such that you do not have to try to get away, rather you can give up and still accomplish your goal of making it into the U.S. by claiming asylum and being released, the filling of the gaps do not provide relief and we can expect to see large groups of people waiting on the south side of the wall to be taken into custody, thereby continuing to deplete Border Patrol resources while the cartels cross their higher value products in the areas they were able to draw the resources from,” Judd said.
Thomas Phippen is an Editor at Fox News.