Despite slashing all new federal funding for former President Donald Trump’s high-priced and ecologically harmful wall at the United States–Mexico border on day one, the Biden administration is now considering resuming construction to plug in “gaps” left behind when the project was essentially abandoned.
While campaigning, President Biden famously pledged that “not another foot” of the controversial border wall would go up during his presidency. But, as first reported by the Washington Times, it now appears that incomplete existing sections of Trump’s 450-mile signature project could be potentially filled in although the project wouldn’t grow larger and no new sections would technically be built. The potential restart was reportedly mentioned by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas when addressing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) employees last week. Specifically, work would resume to complete “gaps,” “gates,” and sections “where the wall has been completed but the technology has not been implemented,” as Mayorkas reportedly explained to ICE employees.
“The president has communicated quite clearly his decision that the emergency that triggered the devotion of DOD funds to the construction of the border wall is ended. But that leaves room to make decisions as the administration, as part of the administration, in particular areas of the wall that need renovation, particular projects that need to be finished,” Mayorkas said.
When asked about the Times report on resumption of work at the border wall, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki explained in a daily press briefing held yesterday that “limited construction” had indeed been funded but otherwise work on the controversial project was still frozen.
“Wall construction remains paused, to the extent permitted by law. So some has already been funded through congressional authorization and funding allocation. But as agencies develop for a plan—it’s paused while agencies are developing a plan for the President on the management of the federal funds,” Psaki relayed to White House reporters per Insider. “It is paused. There is some limited construction that has been funded and allocated for, but it is otherwise paused.”
As mentioned, halting work on the border wall was one of the first actions taken by Biden, with the new administration ordering all private contractors tapped for the project to stop work “as soon as possible but in no case later than seven days” via presidential proclamation issued just hours after Biden took office.
“Like every nation, the United States has a right and a duty to secure its borders and protect its people against threats,” stated the proclamation. “But building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border is not a serious policy solution. It is a waste of money that diverts attention from genuine threats to our homeland security.”
Meanwhile, a group of 40 Republican U.S. senators has accused Biden of blatantly violating the Impoundment Control Act in his freezing of border wall funds and said that the indefinite construction pause is to blame for a seasonal uptick in illegal border crossings.
“In the weeks that followed [the inauguration of Biden], operational control of our southern border was compromised and a humanitarian and national security crisis has ensued,” the senators wrote in a letter of complaint to the Government Accountability Office. “The President’s actions directly contributed to this unfortunate, yet entirely avoidable, scenario.”