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Trump visiting Texas' Rio Grande Valley on Tuesday as administration rushes to award more border wall contracts before Jan. 19

Trump visiting Texas' Rio Grande Valley on Tuesday as administration rushes to award more border wall contracts before Jan. 19

HARLINGEN, Texas (Texas Tribune/KXAN) — President Trump is preparing to visit the Rio Grande Valley on Tuesday, in the midst of planned impeachment proceedings following a violent week at the U.S. Capitol.

The White House didn't give details on Trump’s visit, which was first reported by KVEO in Brownsville, but it comes a week after Department of Homeland Security officials touted the "historic" completion of 450 miles of border fencing during his administration.

The Rio Grande Valley is the site of furious legal and construction activity related to the border wall as U.S. Customs and Border Protection races to build new miles of fencing ahead of Inauguration Day.

Earlier this week, CBP Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan said the agency aims to award new contracts for 300 miles of new fencing before Jan. 19.

After landing in Harlingen, Trump will take a helicopter to McAllen, KVEO reported.

The trip will mark the second visit to the Rio Grande Valley of Trump’s presidency. He previously visited McAllen in 2019 in the midst of a partial government shutdown related to his push for border wall funding.

But even as fencing has gone up at an accelerated pace in other parts of the border, construction in South Texas has bedeviled the Trump administration.

As a result of complex and time consuming eminent domain battles with landowners along the Rio Grande, of the 110 miles the administration planned to build in South Texas, only 15 miles had been finished as of mid-December.

Texas Tribune/ProPublica investigation last month found that the government's strategy of awarding contracts before acquiring titles to the land in Texas has led to millions of dollars in costs for delays, according to calculations based on statements made by CBP officials in court filings.

Since 2017, the federal government has awarded at least a dozen contracts in South Texas worth more than $2 billion prior to obtaining all the land it needed for the projects.

“I think he’s got much bigger issues than coming over and seeing his 14th century solution called ‘The Wall,’” U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, who represents western Hidalgo County told the Mission newspaper Progress Times. “But, as you know, he started his campaign attacking Mexico and building the wall and all that. And I think he wants to end his term the same way.”

President-elect Joe Biden will become president on Jan. 20, likely changing dynamics at Texas-Mexico border. Biden has said he won't build more border wall, even though Congress recently funded $1.375 billion for further construction.

Cuellar says the $1.4 trillion Omnibus spending bill, passed at the very end of last year, doesn't indicate that funds must be used for a "wall," only "barrier systems."

"There is no definition of 'barrier systems' and, therefore, the Biden administration can use that for so many options,” Cuellar told Border Report on Monday. “It could be used for technology, for roads, for lighting along the border, it can replace older existing fencing so therefore we don’t have to go w the new fence. It gives the administration a lot of leeway."

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at www.texastribune.org. The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans – and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.





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