Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) announced Thursday that the Department of Homeland Security had agreed to fill in a gap that was left between Trump-era border wall projects in response to his pressuring the White House to secure a vulnerable spot in Yuma, known as the Morelos Dam.
“For too long, the Morelos Dam area has been an operational challenge for Border Patrol agents to properly secure the border and keep our communities safe,” Kelly said in a statement. “I’m glad that the Department of Homeland Security has listened to Arizona and is going to close these gaps. This is a step forward and I’ll keep working to ensure that Arizona has the tools needed for a secure and orderly process at the border including fencing and barriers where they make sense.”
The move is significant for Kelly, a first-term senator who faces a contentious reelection bid this November. He touted the win as having followed through on an immigration promise to his constituents.
Kelly first began lobbying the Biden administration in December 2021 to finish the slatted, 30-foot-tall border wall. Biden halted all construction projects in January 2021, leaving 350 miles of funded wall unfinished, including small gaps in long stretches of wall.
While the gaps have acted as funnels, forcing migrants to cross into the United States at certain places where they are more easily apprehended and cannot sneak in, the Yuma region has seen significant increases in illegal immigrant apprehensions since construction stopped 18 months ago. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, illegal immigrant arrests were lower than 1,000 per month in the Yuma region of southwestern Arizona, according to Customs and Border Protection data .
Over the past 10 months, apprehensions by the Border Patrol have topped 20,000 every month, including more than 30,000 apprehensions in some months.
CBP does not disclose where in each region of the border apprehensions are made, but the closure of the Morelos Dam is expected to curtail illegal immigration into Yuma, which could prompt smugglers to push people across the border in other regions or states where no barrier is present.