Santa Maria, Texas — Other than the occasional tractor rolling by and the patrolling of federal agents on the levee road, there wasn’t much going on south of the border town of Santa Maria.
That will soon change as delineator posts, traffic barrels and foldable barricades mark the spot on a dirt road where a new border fence gate will be installed.
On Thursday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced an initial award for $3.7 million to Gideon Contracting LLC to start building seven of a total of 35 automated gates.
Rather than closing the gaps with fencing, gates allow access to property owners who have land between the fence and the border.
“The threat and the terrain dictates your equipment and your tactics,” said Department of Homeland Security Joint Task Force-West Director Manuel Padilla Jr.
Padilla, the former Border Patrol chief for the Rio Grande Valley sector, which includes Santa Maria, currently oversees counter-network operations of drug and human smuggling for the southwest border.
He said closing the gaps in the border fence is necessary.
“We have about 654 miles of wall or barrier in one form or another throughout the southwest border and only 60 of those miles in the entire south Texas corridor.”
If it weren’t for a wall in California – argued Padilla – Sunday’s tear-gas clash between members of the migrant caravan and CBP agents could’ve turned more violent.
President Trump still hasn’t convinced Congress to approve funding for his $5 billion border wall. But through an executive order signed last year, CBP has been able to set aside funding for smaller projects.
And although Padilla said that the wall is meant to primarily deter smugglers and other criminals from crossing, there’s something he said the wall – or in this case a fence – can’t fix: the continued arrival of migrants fleeing poverty and violence.
“This other population here needs to be fixed by Congress by closing those immigration loopholes.”