Some $2 billion in wall funding Congress previously earmarked for a new barrier along one of the busiest U.S. border sectors remains available for spending but the Biden administration is allowing those funds to remain idle.
The Washington Examiner reported Friday that a majority of those funds, which were budgeted for 110 miles of new wall and supporting border security technology, are sitting unspent as migrants flood across the sector in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.
The outlet reported that 89 miles of the wall project are not finished, and though President Joe Biden has ordered an end to wall construction that was funded with money diverted from other line items by former President Donald Trump, this particular project was specifically approved and then funded by Congress.
Most other wall projects that were funded by Congress during Trump’s term have been completed.
One senior Border Patrol agent told the Washington Examiner putting up new wall along the uncompleted stretch costs about $2 million a mile, adding it wasn’t clear why the final 89-mile section isn’t being finished or who will eventually make the decision to do so, while hinting that it could be DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
“We work for the government. We work for the Department of Homeland Security, so the secretary,” said the official, who spoke to the outlet on condition of anonymity during a congressional tour of the region earlier in the week.
“He gets his orders from Congress and also from the executive branch, right? But ultimately he’s appointed, right? So he’s our boss. We do what he tells us,” the Border Patrol official added.
One of Biden’s first official acts after taking office in January was to freeze funds that were earmarked for border wall construction. But leading Republicans are moving to force the president to expend the remaining funds on wall construction as Congress instructed when it passed the legislation in the previous budget.
West Virginia Sen. Shelly Moore Capito, the top GOP member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security and the committee’s vice chairman, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, have asked the Government Accountability Office to get involved and make a determination as to whether the administration has violated the Impoundment Control Act after suspending all border wall construction without providing a legal basis to do so. If the GAO finds that Biden did improperly suspend construction, that would be grounds for a lawsuit, the Examiner reported.
“Ten projects totaling 110 miles were slated for this 320-mile stretch of border river. Congress could repurpose the remainder of the $2 billion to fund only technology at the border even though the money was originally meant to cover the cost of the wall, the levee system used to prevent floodwaters from entering towns, roads, and lighting along the wall,” the outlet added.
Construction of walls in the Rio Grande Valley sector first began in the early 2000s when a GOP-controlled Congress provided funding for 55 miles of border sector in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. But that wall, which is just 10 feet high, is in a state of disrepair and not nearly as capable of stopping illegal alien crossing compared to the 30-foot walls being built during the Trump administration.
Typically, when walls go up in one sector, migrants will simply shift to a sector where walls don’t exist or barriers are poor. That is what is happening now; migrants are flooding the Rio Grande Valley sector that remains open after Biden shut down wall construction.
“When we finished the border wall system, there was a traffic discrepancy […] Seventy percent of our traffic was on the west side, 30 percent was on our east side,” the Border Patrol official told the Examiner. “Well, once we finished that wall, the percentage just started changing.
“And we started gaining control over that east side because we had that infrastructure,” the official added. “In 2019 is when the discrepancy was at its highest […] Ninety-five of all our illegal traffic was now occurring only on our west side, and only 5 percent was on our east side.
“We’ve finished 21 miles over on our west side. And we’re starting to see a shift back. I can tell you this: if we construct the remaining 89 miles, we will gain operational control.”
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