Amid growing concerns about undocumented immigration into the U.S., the Biden administration on Wednesday waived more than two dozen environmental laws to allow the construction of roughly 20 miles of border wall in Texas. The money will come from a fund of about $190 million left over from a $1.375 billion appropriation provided by Congress in 2019.
In a notice published in the Federal Register, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas stated that an area of ‘‘high illegal entry” in the United States Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley Sector warranted the action. “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,” he said.
Still, the move came as a surprise to Democrats, many of whom view the border wall as ineffective and wasteful. President Joe Biden said during the 2020 presidential campaign that he would not add “another foot” to the border wall, which has served as a rallying cry for former president Donald Trump.
Asked on Thursday if he thought the border wall was effective at keeping out undocumented immigrants, Biden said “no,” while framing the controversial issue in budgetary terms. “Money was appropriated for the border wall,” Biden told reporters, referring to appropriations that were made during the Trump administration. “I tried to get them to reappropriate – to redirect the money. They didn't, they wouldn't. And in the meantime, there's nothing under the law other than they have to use the money for what is appropriated. I can't stop that.”
CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez reports that the funds made available for border wall construction by Congress were in danger of expiring if not used, though there are likely other considerations as well. “[T]he move comes at a time when a new surge of migrants is straining federal and local resources and placing heavy political pressure on the Biden administration to address a sprawling crisis,” Alvarez writes.