EL PASO, Texas – Congress and the White House are locked in an epic battle over funding for President Trump's promised border wall.
The Trump administration wants to use $6 billion of military funding to shore up outdated barriers to slow down a record-breaking number of illegal crossings. Lawsuits, however, are blocking these efforts at almost every turn.
American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney Dror Ladin said, "We're asking for an order blocking the use of these funds that Congress didn't appropriate to build a wall on the border. It's very simple, they didn't get the money for it, they can't build it."
Sierra Club Managing Attorney Gloria Smith said, "Sierra Club members are dedicated to protecting fragile ecosystems and longstanding communities along the southern border, and obviously building a 1,500-mile contiguous wall is certainly not going to help us in that endeavor."
While these legal and political battles rage on, better barriers are going up, courtesy of the military and the Army Corps of Engineers.
One of the stated missions of that agency's 37,000 civilian and military employees is to "deliver vital public and military engineering services... to strengthen our nation's security."
The thousands of illegal crossers entering the United States each day from many different countries are a definite security concern, especially for locals like El Paso resident Irma Trujillo.
"There is an urgency. Yes there is," Trujillo told us. "They were coming in by the hundreds, now it's by the thousands a day. We have to do something. Thousands of people are going to be released into our community and we don't even know who they are."
The US Border Patrol used existing funding that was authorized under the Obama administration to recently build about four miles of bollard-style fencing. It's 18 feet high, it's got no-climb on the top, and it works very effectively against people crossing illegally. But if you only do four miles at a time, eventually that fence ends, and there's still a wide open path from Mexico to just walk around the fence and come into the United States illegally.
Trujillo said, "Martial law. They need to bring martial law. My father had to wait 10 years to become a US citizen and this really makes me angry because there are people who have been waiting for years."
And while arguments continue thousands of miles away in Washington over whether this is a national emergency, border authorities and American citizens struggle with the daily crush of illegal crossers and thousands being released onto city streets.