The Biden Administration is moving ahead with plans to wind down President Trump's border wall for good. It's not simple. We saw that firsthand on a recent trip to the southern border in Arizona where a stroke of President Biden's pen had a dramatic and sometimes unintended impact more than 2,000 miles away.
A helicopter trip with border officials in Arizona is the clearest way to see how much new border wall was built during Donald Trump’s last months in office.
CBP Agent: This was all within the last four months, actually.
CBP Agent: They were working three shifts, 24/7.
CBP Agent: The speed that they put the wall up was absolutely amazing.
By air is also the best way to see a startling sight: hundreds of security gaps in the wall where gates were about to be installed
CBP Agent: you see that gap right back there.
but are now left wide open to drug and human trafficking.
CBP Agent: So there's another gap coming up here at the right side right now.
Sharyl (on-camera) : The Biden administration executive orders have had an immediate impact in the field. Work here on the new 30-foot-tall border wall literally stopped overnight.
Sheriff Mark Dannels: This was a 24-hour operation. This thing was lit up. You couldn't tell it was day or night out here. And people were coming and going fencing, cranes, big, huge equipment.
Sharyl: To build the wall?
Dannels: To build the wall. It's all gone.
Cochise County, Arizona Sheriff Mark Dannels is on the Homeland Security Advisory Council and is Border Security Chairman of the National Sheriffs Association.
Dannels: They just walked away from it, just walked away.
He’s showing us one of the giant work sites along the border that was instantly abandoned upon President Biden’s executive order.
Dannels: They haven't filled the six foot trenches, they left the equipment out there, they left the wood out there. It's just halted. And you can see around, it's a ghost town. The only thing moving out here is the cartels.
Back in the air one of the more dramatic examples of what’s left undone for the moment.
CBP Agent: You can see where that cut goes right into that rock face. That's where the wall would have gone.
This section of border crossing the giant rock was prioritized for a wall because Mexican drug cartels have used it for years as a scouting point. Now? Another deserted project.
A little more than a week ago, 13 people were killed in California when the SUV they were in collided with a large truck just north of the Mexico border. Border officials say they think the victims were illegal immigrants smuggled with a group of dozens through a hole in a run-down section of border fence.
Sgt. Timothy Williams (July 2019): Here’s a big hole in the fence that was cut.
A year and a half ago Cochise County Sheriff’s Sergeant Timothy Williams showed us why this spot in Arizona's Coronado National Memorial — also prime cartel territory — was also about to become a top priority for a new border wall.
Sharyl (July 2019): So Mexico is right there?
Williams(July 2019): Yes and we're probably being watched right now. We have some of the best fencing that turns into a vehicle barrier that we're looking at now that turns into nothing but a six strand barbed wire fence.
Here’s the same area today (new border wall shown).
Up in the Huachuca Mountains, we’re the first news crew to see the mess left in a desolate spot at an elevation approaching 7,000 feet. Trenches dug for the wall and roads cleared by dynamite. Then vacated with President Biden’s executive order.
Williams: It all stopped one day.
Sharyl: So they dynamited this whole area?
Sharyl: To build the road, to bring the wall?
It’s the same story up and down the border.
Sharyl: Did the work stop just suddenly?
Kelly Glenn-Kimbro: Yes. Oh my gosh. Literally the 21st of January.
Sharyl: What happened?
Glenn-Kimbro: The contractors were ordered to stop putting up any more wall. And they honored that.
Kelly Glenn-Kimbro’s great grandparents homesteaded land around here back in 1896. Now, her family owns 15,000 acres along the Mexican border east of Douglas, Arizona where she lives with her father and daughter.
Sharyl: How many people would you see crossing illegally that you knew about, say one year ago versus what you're seeing now?
Glenn-Kimbro: 10 a week a year ago and now 50 a night. If we run into them on the ranch, we ask them, why are you coming? And they say, it's to get amnesty. So, that's a new deal.
She says she opposed the wall, part of which was constructed along her family’s ranch land, but is also against deserting the project midstream.
Sharyl: What in your mind was the problem with the wall?
Glenn-Kimbro: So, it was a lot of money for a structure that's, whereas we felt presence of human law enforcement was better.
Sharyl: What is your view as to what should happen?
Glenn-Kimbro: If they're not allowed to put up anymore wall, which I am, I'm all for not putting up any more wall, they need to be allowed to restore and reclaim the land that they had prepared to put up the wall.
The Biden Administration has yet to reveal whether it will bring wall construction to a tidier and more secure close.
But White House spokesman Jen Psaki defends the hasty work stoppage, insisting the mess left by President Trump is simply being cleaned up by President Biden.
Jen Psaki/White House Press Secretary (February 12): So as he said all along, “The declaration of a national emergency at our southern border was unwarranted.” He took formal steps to follow up on his executive order to end the declaration so that no more American tax dollars could be wasted on a border wall that does nothing to address or reform issues in our immigration system.
Meantime, border officials say the big, beautiful roads built along the new wall have provided an unexpected benefit, dramatically cutting Border Patrol’s response time by car.
CBP Agent: Areas that would take us two and a half hours to get to in the past, I can get through in about 25 to 30 minutes now.
But now, law enforcement says newly-built roads abandoned under the wall project are getting put to another use.
Sharyl: Now before, when drug cartel members used to try to come through this area, it wasn't easy because it was just a little craggy area with pathways. But now there are these giant roads because the roads were put in to build the wall?
Dannels: The infrastructure, the way it sits, because we didn't get a reasonable conclusion to this, and that's really what happened. When you halt something as quick as this was, I call it hasty, well now what we have is infrastructure that the cartels can benefit from.
Sharyl: Now what?
Williams: Well, now we have a very nice road with no fencing whatsoever that they had removed. So now it's another avenue of the illegals and the cartel to exploit us on the U.S. side, and how they can get more product and human smuggling in the United States.
Sharyl (on-camera): A week from today, the Biden administration reaches a self-imposed deadline to decide what to do about work left undone. In all the Trump administration built 464 miles of new border system, work has also been stopped on new lighting, early warning fiber optics detection, and camera packages.