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Biden administration resumes border wall construction

Mayorkas: There is 'an acute and immediate need to construct physical barriers'

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Department of Homeland Security has resumed Trump-era border wall construction in Texas, despite the Biden administration’s policy stated in January 2021 declaring the end of the national emergency at the border.

The agency said in a notice that it is using authorities provided under a 1996 immigration law, citing the attempted entry of over 245,000 migrants in the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector during the last fiscal year. DHS said the move is consistent with President Joe Biden’s 2021 proclamation since it needs to spend remaining funds from a $1.375 billion fiscal 2019 appropriation.

“There is presently an acute and immediate need to construct physical barriers and roads in the vicinity of the border of the United States in order to prevent unlawful entries into the United States in the project areas” pursuant to the 1996 law, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas wrote in the notice, published Thursday in the Federal Register.

Mayorkas listed roughly two dozen federal laws that would be waived in the process, including the landmark National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act and Endangered Species Act.

The Associated Press, which first reported the notice, said wall construction would cover a 20-mile stretch.

President Joe Biden’s January 2021 proclamation ending the national emergency put a stop to the diversion of border wall funds from other previously appropriated spending. President Donald Trump had begun the diversion of funds for the border wall after a 34-day government shutdown in late 2018 and early 2019.

Trump at the time had been fighting Democrats in Congress over his request for new border wall appropriations, but ended up only with the same amount provided in the previous fiscal year. However, Trump’s emergency declaration, made at the same time he agreed to sign a continuing resolution to reopen the government, freed up additional funds.

Biden’s proclamation, signed the day he took office, said “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.”

At the top of a meeting with his national security team Thursday, Biden reiterated that he didn’t think the wall was effective and that he’s simply carrying out congressional intent with Thursday’s notice.

“The money was appropriated for the border wall. I tried to get them to reappropriate, to redirect that money. They didn’t. They wouldn’t,” Biden said in brief comments to reporters. “In the meantime, there’s nothing under the law other than they have to use the money for what it was appropriated for. I can’t stop that.”

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