Biden May Reportedly Restart Trump’s Border Wall Project to ‘Plug in the Gaps’ Amid Migrant Crisis

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by Svetlana Ekimenko

On 11 February Democratic President Joe Biden ended Donald Trump’s southern border emergency, issued through an executive order in February 2019, denouncing what had become a symbol of his predecessor’s administration’s efforts to slash immigration as a “waste of money that diverts attention from genuine threats to our homeland security”.

President Joe Biden is considering restarting the construction of his predecessor’s southern border wall that he himself demonstratively put the brakes on as his administration took over, reported the Washington Times.

Amid what the White House doggedly avoids referring to as a “border crisis“, triggered by a sudden and significant influx of migrants into the US, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas informed employees last week that work might resume to plug “gaps” in the current barrier between the United States and Mexico, according to notes of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) session cited by the outlet.

 “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 [Customs and Border Protection] presented to me,” said Mayorkas, according to the outlet.

CBP has ostensibly submitted a plan outlining what should be implemented pertaining to the wall.

Referring to the Department of Defense funds that had been originally appropriated towards construction of the wall, the Homeland Security Secretary was quoted as saying:

“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.”

Biden Puts Brakes on Trump Project

As part of a $900 billion coronavirus stimulus package under then-president Donald Trump, the US Congress approved approximately $1.4 billion in border wall funding in December 2020 for fiscal year 2021.

Democrat Joe Biden had campaigned on the promise of repealing his predecessor’s “zero tolerance” policies related to migrants.

One of the first executive orders President Joe Biden issued on his first day in the White House after inauguration day on 20 January was to freeze Department of Defense funding for border wall construction. He subsequently officially ended the emergency order at the border.

Joe Biden had also moved to end “harsh and extreme immigration enforcement”, and vowed to “restore and expand” the asylum system.

However, amid concerns regarding where the Congress-approved funds appropriated for Trump’s ‘pet project’ would now go, and questions over the legality of the reversal, more than 70 Republican lawmakers had requested the Government Accountability Office (GOA) look into the president’s actions.

According to the Impoundment Control Act, when Congress allocates money to a project, the latter must be completed, with the exception arising if questions of efficiency arise, or if a president submits a request to revoke the project.

Joe Biden has not submitted a revocation request, reports the Independent.

‘Humanitarian Disaster’

This comes as the administration of US President Joe Biden scrambles to deal with the historic surge in migrants crossing the southern border with Mexico.

Border Patrol agents detain an average of 5,000 migrants daily.

Over 171,000 migrants were apprehended at the border with Mexico in March, according to preliminary data obtained by Reuters, compared to about 100,441 illegal crossers stopped in February.

The figure includes nearly 19,000 unaccompanied children and is the highest monthly total in two decades.

The Department of Homeland Security is expecting roughly 500,000 to 800,000 migrants to arrive during the 2021 fiscal year, ending in September, with around 184,000 unaccompanied minors among them.

With border facilities stretched to capacity, the Pentagon has approved the use of military bases to house unaccompanied migrant children. Fort Bliss, Joint Base San Antonio in Texas, and Camp Roberts, California.

Critics of the Biden administration blame what Republican Senator Ted Cruz and fellow lawmakers characterised during a visit to a migrant sheltering facility in Donna, Texas, as “a humanitarian disaster” on unravelling of Trump-era border protections.

​Donald Trump during his tenure had been under fire for the border situation under his administration, where families were seen separated into different facilities when they arrived, with critics denouncing the conditions as inhuman as children were pictured in cages.

However, footage from facilities on the border amid surging numbers of arriving unaccompanied minors shows children in conditions that have shocked many.

Mexican officials have said Biden is turning migrants into a “commodity” with his more ‘open’ border policy.

A video from the US, published by investigative journalist site Project Veritas, showed illegal immigrants — including children — huddled on dirt floor in open-air pens under a road bridge in a south Texas border town.

​The footage had allegedly been taken by a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) whistle-blower of the makeshift processing centre under the Anzalduas International Bridge in Granjeno on the outskirts of McAllen, Texas.

The Contentious Wall

Throughout his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump had called for the construction of a border wall, promising that if elected to office he would “make Mexico pay for it”. The statements had riled then-Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto, who responded by ruling out that his country would pay for the wall.

In January 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order that formally directed the US government to channel federal funding into launching wall construction along the US-Mexico border.

A political tussle ensued, as Trump and Congress clashed over funding, with an appropriations lapse resulting in the longest US government shutdown in history lasting 35 days and the declaration of a national emergency.

Nevertheless, Donald Trump managed to see his pet project launched in 2019, with new barriers erected along 460 miles of rugged, hilly terrain and other areas are controlled by private land owners.

While 49 miles of this area previously had no barrier, along the rest of the stretch 30-foot-tall steel fencing was put up to replace the smaller fencing existing there before.

Sputnik

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