Although President Joe Biden vowed on the campaign trail to stop the construction of the southern border wall promoted by his predecessor, the White House as of this week has not yet asked Congress to revoke the project’s funding, and a Cabinet member reportedly admitted that the administration may still authorize additional work to fortify some unfinished sections of the barrier, including installing surveillance technologies in certain areas.
Biden on January 20 gave contractors seven days to halt construction on former President Donald Trump’s border wall and gave Customs and Border Protection (CBP) 60 days to develop a plan to reallocate the Department of Defense (DOD) funding that has been set aside for the multibillion-dollar project, roughly 450 miles of which was completed under Trump.
“It shall be the policy of my administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall,” Biden said on his first day in office. “I am also directing a careful review of all resources appropriated or redirected to construct a southern border wall.”
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CBP missed its two-month deadline to submit a proposal to the Biden administration for diverting the Pentagon’s funds.
Meanwhile, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) employees last week that “there are different projects that the chief of the Border Patrol has presented and the acting commissioner of CBP presented to me,” according to a Monday report by the Washington Times, which obtained notes of the meeting.
“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, specifying “gaps,” “gates,” and places “where the wall has been completed but the technology has not been implemented.”
The Independent reported Tuesday that “under the Impoundment Control Act, when Congress allocates money to a project, that project must be completed.”
“The only exception to that law is if questions of efficiency arise or if a president submits a request to revoke the project,” the newspaper added. “Biden has not submitted a revocation request.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) on Wednesday denounced Biden — who voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006 when he was a senator — for failing to take the steps necessary to permanently terminate the project, tweeting: “It’s shameful and unacceptable for [the president] to continue the construction of Trump’s xenophobic and racist wall.”
Earlier this week, Maxie Adler and Laiken Jordahl, both with the Center for Biological Diversity, shared videos depicting the border wall—which Adler said “has been lawlessly rammed through the borderlands, destroying Indigenous sacred sites, critical habitat, and harming communities,” only to be “cut through on a daily basis.”
The #BorderWall has been lawlessly rammed thru the borderlands, destroying Indigenous sacred sites, critical habitat & harming communities.
— Maxie Adler (@maxie_adler) April 5, 2021
Yet another breach in the #BorderWall captured today by John Kurc, who says a hundred of these happen every day.
The wall doesn’t even begin to address any of the injustices plaguing the borderlands. It’s nothing but a political prop for the GOP. Biden must stop it for good. pic.twitter.com/671ZGXNyzc
— Laiken Jordahl (@LaikenJordahl) April 5, 2021
When pressed about the Washington Times report on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that “there is some limited construction that has been funded and allocated for, but it is otherwise paused.”
“Wall construction remains paused, to the extent permitted by law,” she added. “So some has already been funded through congressional authorization and funding allocation. But… it’s paused while agencies are developing a plan for the president on the management of the federal funds.”
In a video shared last week from east of Nogales, Arizona, Jordahl described the devastation wrought by the construction of the southern border wall and said: “It is painfully clear that we have to take action to repair all that Trump has destroyed.”
“The Biden administration has put construction on pause, but they haven’t canceled these contracts, and they haven’t committed to restoring the land,” he said. “We are urging the administration to cancel these contracts for good, reinstate… protections for people and wildlife, and use those remaining billions of dollars to start restoring the land.”