President Biden is reportedly considering plans to restart construction on former president Donald Trump’s signature border wall amid his administration continues to lose control over the rapidly growing surge of migrants arriving at the border.
According to the Washington Times, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told Immigration and Customs Enforcement staffers last Friday that construction on the border wall might resume in order to plug in “gaps” on the current barrier.
“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 part of the administration, in particular areas of the wall that need renovation, particular projects that need to be finished,” Mayorkas told the group, according to the meeting notes The Washington Times reviewed of the ICE session.
Some of those “particular areas” needed, the DHS Chief added would include “gaps,” “gates” and areas “where the wall has been completed but the technology has not been implemented.”
Mayorkas also told the staffers in the meeting that Customs and Border Protection had “submitted a plan” to his department on what it wanted to see occurring in moving forward with the construction.
“It’s not a single answer to a single question. There are different projects that the chief of the Border Patrol has presented and the acting commissioner of CBP presented to me,” Mayorkas said in discussing the plan submitted by CBP.
The move comes as Biden on Day One in office made a big spectacle in signing a slew of executive orders by undoing his predecessor hard-stance immigration policies, including ending the construction of Trump’s signature border wall by proclaiming the “immediate termination” of declaration funds used for its construction.
According to CBP latest data, as of April 5, the total number of unaccompanied migrant minors in federal custody reaching almost 20,000, with 15,000 currently under Health and Human Service (HHS) care, while nearly 4,200 are in Border Patrol detention facilities. The facilities are “severely overcrowded” with unaccompanied minors, some reaching nearly 2,000% of its mass capacity due to the influx. This has stretched the shelter system to its limits, leaving Biden officials scrambling in crisis mode in struggling to find places to keep up with record numbers of migrants arriving at the southern border every day.
In the proclamation, Biden slammed Trump saying in the order: “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… It shall be the policy of my Administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall. I am also directing a careful review of all resources appropriated or redirected to construct a southern border wall.”
Approximately 450 miles of wall was constructed under the Trump administration, with officials saying about another 350 miles was already funded for its construction. The new wall, according to CBP officials is more than just the steel slats, as systems were also planned to be installed to allow agents to detect incursions and high-speed roads to allow them to reach trouble spots faster so that agents can interdict anyone who does make it over.
Former CBP acting commissioner Mark Morgan earlier this year before Biden took office warned that 800 miles had been funded and canceling such project would cost taxpayers billions, as well as having a “dramatic” impact on how CBP and other law enforcement are able to do their jobs in stopping illegals and drug being smuggling across the border.
However, the executive action from Biden raised the alarm by a majority of Senate Republicans last month, requesting the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate whether the new president violated the Impoundment Control Act (ICA), a 1974, arguing the freeze on construction of the border wall was a “blatant violation of federal law and infringe(s) on Congress’s constitutional power of the purse.”
“Failing that, the pauses ordered by the [Biden] proclamation are an unlawful impoundment and an assault on Congress’s constitutional power of the purse,” the 40 GOP Senators signed in a letter to the GAO chief stated. “The Biden Administration has pursued none of these paths.”
Congress over the last four years under Trump had allocated $1.375 billion each fiscal year for the construction of the wall, including funds for this current fiscal year. Following the proclamation, Biden never submitted a revocation request to rescind the $1.4 billion allocated funds Congress had given last December for the wall. The president instead had ordered assessments of the legality of funding, contracting methods, and consequences of stopping the project.
“I think it’s great that they reversed themselves, but a lot of damage was done because we were gonna have that wall almost complete. You know, it delayed two and a half years because of lawsuits,” Trump said in an interview on Newsmax Tuesday.
“We started building it and we were almost finished and then they called an end to it. And it’s, you know, just incredible. But if they agree that they’re going to complete it — there’s very little to complete. If they agree that they’re going to complete it, that’s a great thing. That’s a very positive step.”
However, the White House didn’t show the same enthusiasm as Trump when pressed about the Washington Times report during Tuesday’s daily press briefing. White House Press secretary Jen Psaki said the overall construction is still paused but admitted that there will be “limited” additional wall construction.
“Wall construction remains paused to the extent permitted by law. So some has already been funded through congressional authorization and funding allocation,” Psaki said Tuesday, adding that construction is “paused” with “some limited construction that has been funded and allocated” as federal agencies continue to “review wall contracts and develop a plan to submit to the president soon.”