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Ernst bill would give unused border wall materials to states who want to finish project

New legislation introduced Tuesday by Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa., would allow border wall materials going unused due to the Biden administration’s ending of construction to be handed over to states who want to finish the incomplete Trump-era project.

The BUILD IT Act would require the federal government to transfer any border wall materials that were contracted for but have not been used, to border states like Arizona and Texas, for construction of barriers and walls. States would have to certify those materials are being used to build a border barrier.

The Trump administration built more than 400 miles of border wall, but the project was not completed by the time the Biden administration came into office. President Biden immediately ordered a halt on further wall construction.

A report last year by the Republican staff of the Government Operations and Border Management Subcommittee of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee found that efforts to suspend or terminate wall construction projects at the Defense Department had cost between $1.8 billion to $2 billion and the administration is spending $3 million every day.

Since then, states struggling with the effects of the massive crisis on the southern border — where there were more than 234,000 migrant encounters in April alone — have moved to take matters into their own hands. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a project last year to fund a wall in Texas, with a $250 million down payment. 

ABBOTT LAUNCHES TEXAS BORDER WALL PROJECT WITH $250 MILLION ‘DOWN PAYMENT’

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced in December that it was moving to close gaps in the wall, as well as building drainage systems, completing unfinished access roads, and to discard construction materials that are already at the border but will not be used for the “remediation” work. That work was set to take place in the Tucson, Yuma and El Paso border sectors.

“We are witnessing a crisis of historic proportions at our Southern border under the Biden administration. President Biden’s refusal to take action at the border has been a disaster, but his decision to cancel border barrier projects that were already underway is literally costing taxpayers billions,” Ernst said in a statement. 

DHS ANNOUNCES PLAN TO USE BORDER WALL MONEY TO ADDRESS SAFETY, ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES 

“Here’s a simple solution, Mr. President: let’s put these materials to use, let’s end the taxpayer-funded waste, let’s stop the unprecedented flow of illegal migrants, and let’s build it!” she said.

The bill was endorsed by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which applauded Ernst for moving to help border state governors the group said “are desperate to end the crisis.”

“Now, she would be the first to acknowledge there is so much more that needs to be done, notably keeping Title 42 in place and reforming an asylum system that has enabled millions of migrants to make fraudulent claims in order to circumvent our laws,” RJ Hauman, FAIR’s head of government relations, said in a statement. “But as President Trump recognized, a barrier is a key component of a secure border, and the Build It Act delivers on that front.”

The bill is one of a number of solutions put forward by Republicans in recent weeks to the crisis. Last week House Republicans introduced legislation to suspend the entry of illegal immigrants into the United States — and allow state attorneys general to bring legal action against the Biden administration to enforce it.

It also comes just as Republican states prevailed in their legal battle to win a preliminary injunction against the Biden administration’s efforts to end Title 42 public health order expulsions at the border. The administration has said it intends to appeal the ruling handed down on Friday.

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