The White House downplayed Friday its decision to finish construction on a section of former President Donald Trump’s border wall near Yuma, Arizona.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked about the move by Fox News Channel’s Peter Doocy during the daily press briefing. Jean-Pierre asserted that President Biden was “not finishing the wall,” but rather filling gaps to prevent migrants from attempting dangerous border crossings.
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“We are cleaning up the mess the prior administration made,” said Jean-Pierre. “We are trying to save lives … A border wall is an ineffective use of taxpayer dollars.”
The Department of Homeland Security announced earlier this week that it was prioritizing the completion of the wall near the Morelos Dam in Arizona. The decision was made, according to administration officials, to protect illegal migrants from getting hurt while attempting to traverse a dangerous section of the Colorado River.
DHS officials not that the area in question is the third busiest illegal-crossing site across along the U.S-Mexico border. In the first six months of this year alone, border patrol agents have stopped more than 160,000 times along the section.
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“This area presents safety and life hazard risks for migrants attempting to cross into the United States where there is a risk of drownings and injuries from falls,” DHS said in a statement. “This area also poses a life and safety risk to first responders and agents responding to incidents in this area.”
News of the decision to fill gaps in the border was met with derision by Republican lawmakers.
“After Hispanic support for President Biden craters to 26% approval, he suddenly wants to complete the border wall,” Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-GA, tweeted.
Critics noted that Biden had campaigned strongly on stopping the wall’s construction while vying for the White House in 2020.
At one point, Biden even promised that if he won “not another foot” of the project would be built.