Biden redirecting billions approved for wall to environmental and safety concerns at border

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The remainder of billions of dollars that Congress appropriated for border wall construction during the Trump administration will instead be spent on safety and environmental concerns left from the projects, the Biden administration announced Friday afternoon.

President Joe Biden suspended wall construction after taking office in late January and ordered his administration to review all $15 billion in wall spending, of which $4 billion came from Congress, and $10.5 billion was diverted by former President Donald Trump from the Defense Department. Of the $10.5 billion in money redirected from the Pentagon, just $2 billion was unspent.

The Department of Homeland Security is legally obligated to spend the remainder of the funds appropriated by Congress on border-related construction. For example, the remainder will be spent to install a levee system in 13.4 miles of low-lying borderland in Hidalgo County, Texas. The need for a levee system arose after border wall construction started and then stopped.

“DHS will also prioritize using the remaining funds consistent with their appropriated purposes for necessary clean-up of construction sites previously funded by the Department of Defense, including drainage, erosion control, site remediation, and material disposal,” the department said in a statement.

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Another project to be funded by leftover congressional funds will deal with soil erosion where the wall was built in San Diego, California.

“Improper compaction of soil and construction materials along a wall segment constructed under the previous administration are causing dangerous erosion in San Diego. DHS has authorized necessary backfill projects to ensure the safety of nearby border communities,” according to the DHS.

It was not specified how much money was unspent.

Some money will clear out remaining equipment left behind at border wall sites across Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California.

The Trump administration completed 450 miles of slatted border fence in all four southern border states, though much of it replaced shorter fences or was secondary fencing that ran parallel with the main wall. Beyond the 450 miles of wall, more than 300 more were going up or were about to be installed. The overseeing federal agency at the DHS, Customs and Border Protection, told construction crews nationwide to suspend operations by Jan. 27, so the 300 miles were not completed.

In President Barack Obama’s final appropriations year, Congress made available $341 million for 40 miles of replacement wall in San Diego and El Centro, California, and El Paso, Texas, all of which have been completed. The three regions are among nine the Border Patrol use to divide the border.

In 2018, Congress quadrupled its wall funding, providing $1.375 billion for 78 miles for new and replacement wall in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, various regions of California, and Yuma, Arizona.

Trump then asked for $18 billion in late 2018 that was denied, prompting a 35-day government shutdown over his refusal to accept a far lower amount of funding. Unsuccessful, Trump declared a national emergency at the border, allowing him to take more than $10.5 billion in 2019 and 2020 from funding that Congress had appropriated for other departments. He received $1.375 billion from Congress in 2019 and redirected $601 million from the Treasury Forfeiture Fund for new wall in the Rio Grande Valley.

The remaining $9.9 billion was taken from the Pentagon: $6.3 billion in counternarcotics funds and $3.6 billion in military construction funds. The military construction money went toward a 175-mile portion of primary and secondary fence in San Diego, El Centro, Yuma, El Paso, and Laredo, Texas, of which 86 miles is finished.

The counternarcotics money went toward two projects. The first was replacing 129 miles of border wall in El Paso, Tucson, and El Centro, which have been completed. The second project went to new and replacement primary and secondary walls in all four border states — 118 miles of the 162-mile project were completed as of January.

Congress gave CBP another $1.375 billion in 2020 for new wall near Laredo. Construction has not started and is pending until the land can be acquired. Another $1.4 billion for construction was provided in 2021.

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While Biden stopped wall construction following an outcry from his party during the Trump administration, government-funded border wall construction is nothing new. Projects took off in the 1990s when former President Bill Clinton approved a Border Patrol hiring spree and wall projects.

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Tags: News, Construction, Homeland Security, Border Security, Customs and Border Protection, Joe Biden, Donald Trump, White House

Original Author: Anna Giaritelli

Original Location: Biden redirecting billions approved for wall to environmental and safety concerns at border

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