BUILDING BARRIERS: An in-depth look at the first-ever border wall in Starr County

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FRONTON, Texas (KVEO) — A brand new border wall system stands more than 30 feet tall and is the first of its kind in Starr County. 

Well past city limits and beyond houses in Fronton, Texas, an area notorious for drug trafficking and human smuggling, stands the controversial wall many didn’t think would ever go up. 

“Starr County has been one of the busiest areas for narcotics and smuggling traffic along the Southwest border,” said Agent Jason Montemayor, Acting Assistant Chief Patrol Agent.

Every single day, Rio Grande City Border Patrol agents apprehend undocumented immigrants in Starr County. Finding drugs is another common occurrence in the area. 

“The majority of the narcotics here are marijuana, but there have been hard narcotics, cocaine, we just found large cocaine loads in the area, so we have hard narcotics out here and even at times methamphetamine,” said Agent Montemayor.

For the first time in history, Rio Grande City Station Border Patrol agents are patrolling with a border wall. 

“This has changed everything; the traffic is going down,” said Agent Montemayor. “This is a game-changer to have a border wall system in place here in Starr County, one of the busiest areas in the nation.”

The Starr County wall is 18-feet-tall and has a 5-foot anti-climb technology. It is complete with LED lights every 15 feet. With the all-weather roads, lighting, enforcement cameras, and other related technology, things have changed for the agents and smugglers.

“When you put a system like this in place it just impedes the traffic, if traffic still tries to get over, it’s going to slow the traffic down and give the agent enough time to make that arrest and another effect is denial. The aliens or narcotic smugglers are going to make a choice, go over the wall or go around and 99% of the time they’ll choose to go around,” said Montemayor.

The wall was built over a three-month period and cost about $42.8 million. 

Unlike construction in other sectors, no homes or businesses were impacted by the construction.  

“The federal government already owned this property, which is why we built this project first, no homes were disturbed, no one was relocated. None of that,” said Montemayor.

Agents say this is just the beginning for a border wall system in Starr County.

With Fiscal Year 2019 funding, a contract to construct up to approximately 21 miles of new border wall system located within Starr County was awarded to Southern Border Constructors for the base contract amount of $120,412,400. 

“Construction already started by Falcon Dam. We have over 6/10ths of a mile completed, that’s a 30-foot wall system,” said Montemayor. 

The Trump Administration recently set up a plaque in McAllen commemorating the completion of 400 miles of the border wall along the Southern Border. A large portion of that construction in the Rio Grande Valley.

President-Elect Joe Biden has state he does not plan to sign any new border wall construction contracts for a future wall. Halting the ongoing border wall construction or even tearing down the wall could cost millions of dollars in broke contracts and labor. 

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