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Biden Terminates Diversion of Funds for Construction of Border Wall

In this March 18, 2020, photo, a Border Patrol agent walks along a border wall separating Tijuana, Mexico, from San Diego, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

WASHINGTON- The Biden administration has begun the process of canceling all sections of the border wall that were funded by money diverted from military projects, in relation to a federal walk back of one of the Trump administration’s principal policy commitments.

The announcement came as the result of a presidential proclamation from the Biden administration issued back in January that paused construction of the border wall. 

In addition to pausing the construction of the wall, the Biden administration has terminated the diversion of funds for construction of the wall and tasked federal agencies to draft plans for that money. 

“[The U.S. Department of Defense] has begun taking all necessary actions to cancel border barrier projects and to coordinate with interagency partners,” Deputy Pentagon Spokesperson Jamal Brown said in a written comment issued Friday. 

The money diverted to the wall was originally intended to fund schools for military children, overseas military construction projects, and the National Guard and Reserve equipment account, among other projects, Brown said.

“Today’s action reflects this administration’s continued commitment to defending our nation and supporting our service members and their families,” he added.

Reverting the funds will allow “some of these critical efforts to move forward as soon as possible,” a written comment from the Pentagon said. 

The written statement also said that the department is in the process of reviewing the deferred projects to figure out which ones to prioritize.

A written comment from Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, which oversees military construction projects, praised the announcement. He also characterized the Trump era diversions as a dangerous attempt to “usurp” Congress’ power of the purse.

“When President Trump raided much-needed funding for critical military construction projects that supported our service members to pay for his border wall, he jeopardized military readiness by ripping away funds to repair a hazardous waste storage facility at Naval Station Norfolk, provide childcare services for service members at Joint Base Andrews, and much more,” said Garamendi.

In contrast, a recent letter to Vice-President Kamala Harris from Republican members of the Committee on Appropriations argued that the Biden administration’s pause on border wall construction harms American security at the southern border.

“As you can see by the unprecedented number of apprehensions reported by Customs and Border Protection, we are in a state of emergency that requires action, not delay in spending the funds Congress has already made available,” the letter said.

The Biden proclamation, which was issued on his first day in office, had described the border wall as an unserious policy solution to immigration, and also said that the wall was a “a waste of money that diverts attention from genuine threats to our homeland security.” 

A federal agency has also questioned the manner in which the Trump administration went about building the wall.

A statement recently issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that the agency is trying to protect border communities from dangers that have resulted from the Trump administration’s approach to construction of the wall.

That statement said that the “extensive problems created by the prior administration’s border wall construction” have endangered American communities near the border in California and in Texas.

According to the DHS, the Trump administration had blown large holes in the Rio Grande’s flood barrier system in order to make room for the wall. The low-lying regions of Hidalgo County, Texas, rely on that barrier system for protection from catastrophic flooding, which now places them under threat, the DHS said. 

The DHS will work to “quickly repair” the flood barrier system to protect border communities, the agency said.

The administration’s construction efforts also led to “improper compaction of soil and construction materials” which has led to dangerous soil erosion along a 14-mile stretch in San Diego, Calif.

The DHS will work to backfill the eroded areas, it said. 

In working to fix both of these issues, the department will not work to expand the border barrier, it emphasized in a written statement.

While the Trump administration made restricting immigration a component of its policy agenda, the Biden administration has reversed some of these policies, including increasing refugee admissions, keeping deportation relief under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, and forgoing the “public charge” rule which refuses green cards to immigrants that are likely to use public benefits such as Medicaid, according to a fact sheet from the Pew Research Center. 

The Biden administration has also asked Congress to pass legislation to permit some immigrants under the temporary protected status, a program that allows immigration for work for a restricted amount of time which the Trump administration had sought to curb, to apply for green cards and permanent resident status.

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