Biden Ends All Border Wall Construction Contracts Amid Migrant Surge

Biden Ends All Border Wall Construction Contracts Amid Migrant Surge

Turns out not building a wall is more costly than building one to stop the migrant surge

Mona Salama
Mona Salama
October 12, 2021

The Biden administration has terminated the last of the remaining border wall contracts along the southern border in Texas despite Congress appropriating funds already dedicated to complete the project construction as the decision comes amid a record number of migrant crossings reaching a 20-year high.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it is ending the "remaining" border wall construction in the Laredo Sectors in addition to ending "all border barrier contracts" in the Rio Grande Valley Sectors. The move comes two months after the DHS canceled two contracts in the Laredo Sector that comprised approximately 31 miles of border wall construction that had yet even started.

To replace the "planned border barrier system," DHS would use the funds previously allocated to direct Custom and Border Patrol (CBP) to conduct an environmental assessment with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in the two Sectors.

"These activities will not involve any construction of new border barrier or permanent land acquisition," DHS said.

Former President Trump diverted over $10 billion in funding from military projects and other sources to construct the border wall. Approximately 450 miles of the border wall have been constructed or replaced during the Trump administration, with another 350 miles, already funded, were planned or under construction. According to Trump officials, the new wall was not just a replacement of the steel panels but the implementation of new systems that were designed to help border agents detect intrusions and high-speed roads to reach trouble spots faster so agents can interdict any illegals before they attempt to cross the border.

However, a Senate Homeland Security subcommittee report found that President Biden's decision to halt efforts not to construct the planned border wall was costing nearly $3 million a day of taxpayers' funds. Since Biden took office on Jan. 20, 2021, the Senate blistering July report found that such suspension "wasted" roughly $2 billion and counting "not to build the border wall" as the defense department is paying construction contractors to "babysit metal" instead. The figure amounts to 20% of the original $10 billion allocated by the Trump administration for border wall construction.

Following the DHS announcement, new videos captured by drone from Fox News captured footage of stacks of steel panels worth roughly $120 million, already funded by taxpayers' expenses being left unused and abandoned in Pharr, Texas. According to Fox News, the massive piles of 20,000 steel panels have been "baking in the sun" since Biden halted border wall construction in January. The individual steel panel is reportedly worth to cost $5,000 each.

In one of his first acts in office, Biden ended the construction of the border wall — his predecessor's signature policy by freezing the allocated funds used for its border construction projects and terminating the former president's national declaration along the U.S.-Mexico southern border. In the proclamation, Biden ordered construction progress to be halted to free up the $1.4 billion funds that were specifically appropriated for the wall from the FY 2021 budget to go toward other construction projects within the Department of Defense's purview.

40 Senate Republicans requested the Government Accountability Office (GAO) back in March to investigate whether the president violated the Impoundment Control Act (ICA), accusing Biden of "blatant violation of federal law and infringe(s) on Congress's constitutional power of the purse."

However, in June, the federal nonpartisan government watchdog reported having found no wrongdoing in Biden's action to pause border wall construction with funds that Congress allocated, stating the president's decision was rooted in legal requirements. The Biden administration, the GAO found, has "shown that the use of funds is delayed in order to perform environmental reviews and consult with various stakeholders, as required by law, and determine project funding needs in light of changes that warrant using funds differently than initially planned."

Just days prior to the release of the GAO report, the Biden administration asked Congress in its FY 2022 budget to rescind or cancel $1.9 billion in remaining border barrier funds from prior appropriations. They request the money to be directed  to "modern, effective border management measures to improve safety and security."

Biden's budget office also called on Congress to "cancel any border barrier funds that remain at the end of the year so that these resources can instead be used for modern, privacy-protective, and effective border management measures like enhanced technology between points of entry and improved infrastructure at Land Ports of Entry."

The action to officially halt the construction of a border wall comes at a time as the Biden administration continues to grapple with an unprecedented surge of migrants. Republicans are blaming Biden's lax immigration policies are contributing to the rising monthly border crossing, reaching a 21 year high in recent months. More than 200,000 migrants were encountered at the southern border in August — the second straight month CPB reported numbers matching this figure. July's reported numbers marked the highest new 21-year monthly total of border crossers since Biden took office. In the time Biden has been in office — between February and August — CBP officials reached over 1.5 millionth border crossers in total.

DHS officials are preparing for the "worst case scenario" for September figures where it's reported to be double the number from last month, with numbers are seen to be about 350,000 to 400,000 amid the caravan of Haitians.

Mona Salama

Mona Salama

Mona Salama is a political reporter for The Floridian covering Congress, the White House and Congressional elections.

Subscribe to the newsletter everyone in Florida is reading.