(Headline USA) Former president Donald Trump’s signature, nearly completed border wall project would lose much of its remaining funding—as well as the fast-track status that enabled it to bypass bureaucratic regulations—under a Biden administration plan announced Friday.
As part of a bid to systematically undo many of Trump’s policies—even to the detriment of border security, President Joe Biden suspended construction of the wall upon taking office.
Biden’s own lack of replacement policies, as well as rhetoric that seemed to encourage illegals to make the dangerous border trek, has since resulted in record-shattering numbers passing through the porous border.
Although decision of the “under review” plan was likely predetermined, backlash—including that of Democrats—raised questions as to whether Biden might relent.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas even hinted at one point that he might plan to complete the project, which long stalled in the courts during Trump’s first term amid legal resistance from left-wing activist groups.
Immediately after regaining control of the US House of Representatives during the 2018 election, Democrats—joined by some anti-Trump Republicans—also had also attempted to stall the project by restricting the appropriations for it.
Trump, however, circumvented the tactic by allocating Pentagon defense funds that were allowed to be earmarked, under US code, for border security measures including barriers. After Congress attempted to undo his emergency border declaration, Trump used his first veto to secure the funding.
Biden’s decision to halt the progress upon taking office meant many contractors have continued to be paid, even as the red tape is thrown up anew.
The new plan does not cancel the wall project outright, but it’s still likely to face opposition in Congress, where Democrats now also control the evenly-split Senate.
The Biden administration said it plans to return more than $2 billion that the Trump administration diverted from the Pentagon to help pay for the wall and use other money appropriated by Congress to address “urgent life, safety, and environmental issues” created by the construction.
It also asked lawmakers not to provide any additional funding for what the far-left president believes is an unnecessary effort, despite the ongoing crisis. Neither Biden nor Vice President/Border Czar Kamala Harris has been willing to fully acknowledge or accept responsibility for handling the issue.
“Building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border and costs American taxpayers billions of dollars is not a serious policy solution or responsible use of federal funds,” the formerly nonpartisan, newly radicalized Office of Management and Budget said in a statement outlining the plan.
The government has built walls and other barriers along the 2,000-mile U.S.–Mexico border for decades to eliminate some of the easier routes of avoiding checkpoints.
But under the Obama administration, the White House used executive fiats to implement a new strategy of ignoring federal law, resulting in a significant influx of unaccompanied minors—an issue that Trump inherited early in his own administration.
Trump vowed to build a “virtually impenetrable” wall, but quickly found that the well-funded and coordinated resistance by leftist open-border advocates who could undermine the rule of law more easily than he could reinstate it was a challenge that would take longer than expected.
Instead, he successfully curbed immigration using a mix of diplomatic pressure and policy revisions within the US, dropping it to its lowest levels in years and—to some extent—abnegating the need for a physical wall.
Instead, his administration set aside about $15 billion through a combination of congressional appropriations and taking the money from the Pentagon and other parts of the government.
The Trump administration built about 450 miles of wall, moving quickly by waiving progress-hindering requirements for environmental reviews and mediation, though only about 52 miles were in areas where no barrier previously existed.
Biden’s decision to suspend construction prompted Republican senators to ask the Government Accountability Office to investigate whether the administration was violating federal law in not using appropriated money for its intended purpose.
The administration said Friday that it will use funds already set aside by Congress for “their appropriated purpose, as required by law” but is requesting no new money for wall construction in the Department of Homeland Security’s 2022 budget.
Biden is instead seeking money for increased technology at the ports of entry and elsewhere, claiming—contrary to evidence—that there were more efficient ways to stop the illegal immigration, rampant human trafficking and drug smuggling at the border.
The administration said it would return $2 billion taken from the Pentagon and use it for the construction projects for which the money was originally intended.
That includes $79 million for an elementary school for the children of American service members in Germany; $25 million for a fire and rescue station at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida; and $10 million to expand defenses against North Korean ballistic missiles at Fort Greely in Alaska.
It plans to use the approximately $1.9 million remaining appropriated by Congress for the wall for drainage and erosion control or other environmental problems allegedly caused by wall construction in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and elsewhere.
The administration didn’t explicitly say it won’t build any new wall.
But it said that any new construction would be subjected to environmental review. It also said it would review ongoing efforts to seize land from property owners by eminent domain and would return parcels to the owners if the Department of Homeland Security determines it’s not needed.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press