Federal officials celebrate 400 miles of border wall construction

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Thursday, October 29, 2020
400 miles of border wall completed
Federal officials are celebrating 400 miles of the new border wall system under the Trump Administration.

McALLEN, Texas -- Federal officials planned to celebrate a milestone Thursday along the U.S.-Mexico border, calling the completion of 400 miles of a new wall system historic.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, U.S. Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott and Customs and Border Protection leaders gathered in McAllen to mark the occasion.

"They said it couldn't be done... They tried to block it - They tried to spin it - They tried to hide the truth," Wolf tweeted Thursday morning.

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The ceremony comes amid news that the Trump Administration had filed 75 lawsuits in the last six months to seize private land along the U.S.-Mexico border for the border wall, according to data reviewed by CNN from the Texas Civil Rights Project.

"People right now are having to choose between their health and their homes," said Ricky Garza, a staff attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project, a legal advocacy group, which is currently representing landowners in eight land seizure cases.

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A Customs and Border Protection official told CNN that the administration is taking precautions in engaging with landowners during the pandemic, like talking over the phone instead of in person, adding that exceptions have been made on a case-by-case basis. Some landowners willingly have turned over their land.

Still, the administration is quickly pressing forward with its stated goal to build 450 miles by the end of this year, the majority of which replaces old, dilapidated barriers, with an updated and more enhanced system. A small portion of the new construction has gone up in areas where no wall previously existed. CBP officials said they're on pace to reach their goal, building between 10 to 12 miles a week, adding that some contractors have been working long shifts and weekends.

The pace of construction and piling on of lawsuits has caught many by surprise, including the landowners in the thick of it.

"It has gone fast, as far as the way things are going. We don't know what's coming next," Cavazos Rodriguez told CNN.

CNN and The Associated Press contributed to this report.