Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has authorized projects across the southern border to fill in gaps in the border wall and replace gates – even as the administration continues to urge Congress to end all appropriations for the Trump-era project.
The projects span California, Arizona and Texas and will include work in sectors of San Diego, El Centro, Yuma, El Paso and Rio Grande Valley, and are funded with existing appropriations to DHS from Congress.
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They include creating train gates to make it safer for agents and migrants from train operations and gates under a bridge to address “hazardous river waters.”
Projects also include the replacement of a barrier in California “that has not been properly treated to withstand corrosion from nearby ocean waters and currently poses safety risks to Border Patrol Agents, community members, and migrants.”
Meanwhile, in Rio Grande Valley — one of the busiest sectors for illegal immigration — Customs and Border Protection will complete 17 gates and engage in other work “that currently makes it difficult for Border Patrol Agents to efficiently access certain areas and for first responders to respond to incidents.”
The Trump administration built approximately 450 miles of wall at the southern border as part of its effort to crack down on illegal migration and drug trafficking. The Biden administration halted the wall immediately after entering office, calling it ineffective. Democrats and left-wing activists had called the wall xenophobic and immoral.
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“Wall construction along the Southern border in recent years is just one example of the prior Administration’s misplaced priorities and failure to manage migration in a safe, orderly, and humane way,” the White House said in a fact sheet on the plans last year
However, in June last year it announced that while it would divert funding back to the Pentagon, it would also use some money to address safety and environmental issues near construction sites. It noted plans to fix soil erosion and close breaches to stop flooding.
As that was ongoing, the administration also canceled a number of border wall contracts. It led Texas to announce that it would be building its own wall using private funding.
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In a statement this week, the agency says it continues to review other projects that would present “life, safety, environmental, or other remediation needs and has begun environmental planning, to include planning consistent with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), for not yet completed projects in accordance with the Department’s plan.”
However, even with a raging border crisis ongoing, DHS indicated that it had not changed its tune on any future wall construction — repeating its call for Congress to cancel remaining appropriations for border call construction.
It urged lawmakers instead to fund “smart border security measures” such as border technology at and between ports of entry “that are proven to be more effective at improving safety and security at the border.”
It also said that it would continue to assess how best to use already appropriated funds, including whether they could be used “to install barrier system attributes.”
The announcement comes after Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, introduced legislation last week to allow any unused border wall construction materials to be handed to states for their own border wall projects.