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More border construction starts in San Diego

U.S. Border Patrol Agents at Border Field State Park in Imperial Beach watch over personnel that are reinforcing the border wall with concertina wire. Border Patrol remains vigilant in ensuring the safety of the American public and securing our borders. (Mani Albrecht/U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

Construction crews on Monday began replacing more border barrier between San Diego and Tijuana, according to Customs and Border Protection.

The project will tear down a second layer of steel mesh fencing along 14 miles of the border, stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Otay Mountain area. Panels of 30-foot bollards, or posts set close together, similar to recent barrier replacement projects in Calexico and along San Diego’s primary layer of fencing, will replace the older fence that went up in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“Given the high-density population in the San Diego-Tijuana area, the updated border infrastructure is critically needed,” CBP said in a news release.

Close to 9 percent of those caught crossing the southwest border illegally in January came over in the San Diego area, according to CBP data.

The San Diego Sector of Border Patrol saw a spike in apprehensions in December after many from the recently arrived migrant caravan chose to cross illegally, often climbing the new primary fence to make asylum claims because the line to ask the U.S. for protection at ports of entry was months long. The number caught crossing rose 27 percent from 4,574 in November to 5,814 in December.

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It dropped again by 29 percent to 4,122 in January.

The Trump administration waived environmental reviews in early February to speed up the construction project, the sixth such waiver since President Donald Trump took office.

Environmental groups have pushed back on the federal government’s use of these waivers for border construction. A U.S. district judge in San Diego ruled in favor of the Trump administration last year over the issue.

Officials referred to the new construction as the “San Diego Secondary Wall Project.”

However, the construction is not part of Trump’s recent stalemate with Congress over funding for his promised border wall.

CBP used fiscal 2018 appropriations money to fund the construction. SLSCO Ltd., headquartered in Galveston, Texas, received a $101 million government contract in December for the effort.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen visited the newly replaced Calexico barrier on October to watch welders affix a plaque to the structure commemorating it as the “first section of President Trump’s border wall.”

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She said that more construction would be coming to that part of the California border as well.

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© 2019 The San Diego Union-Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.