OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told federal immigration staffers last week that it’s possible he will add new wall construction to measures the agency is considering as a means of stemming the still-out-of-control surge of illegal aliens along the southwest border.
According to the Washington Times, which reviewed notes and materials from a meeting Mayorkas had with Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees, the purpose of restarting border wall construction would be to fill “gaps” where problem areas have been identified.
Mayorkas, who was asked by ICE personnel about his plans for the border wall, noted that while Joe Biden ended construction on his first day in office by ending the national emergency Donald Trump declared in order to secure funding for it, “that leaves room to make decisions” on completing some “gaps in the wall.”
“It’s not a single answer to a single question. There are different projects that the chief of the Border Patrol has presented and the acting commissioner of CBP presented to me,” the DHS chief reportedly said.
“The president has communicated quite clearly his decision that the emergency that triggered the devotion of DOD funds to the construction of the border wall is ended. But that leaves room to make decisions as the administration, as part of the administration, in particular areas of the wall that need renovation, particular projects that need to be finished,” he added, according to the Times.
Those areas, Mayorkas said, include “gaps,” “gates,” and places “where the wall has been completed but the technology has not been implemented.”
The Times noted:
Mr. Trump left office with about 460 miles of border wall completed, funded by a mixture of money Congress specifically approved and money Mr. Trump siphoned from Pentagon accounts after declaring a national emergency.
Most of that construction came where a barrier already existed, replacing outdated designs or vehicle barriers that did nothing to stop people on foot.
The new wall is more than just the steel slats. Officials describe it as a system, one that includes technology to allow agents to detect incursions and high-speed roads to allow them to reach trouble spots faster so that agents can interdict anyone who does make it over.
Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection agents alike have said that the wall was responsible for dramatically reducing the flow of illegal traffic, both in terms of drug and human smuggling.
“It’s not that it’s impenetrable. But it does deny and impede long enough for Border Patrol agents to actually get there to do the apprehension and interdiction. And it works,” then-acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan told Congress in February 2020.
Initially, 738 miles of wall construction was funded by Congress and Pentagon funds at a cost of $15.5 billion ($10 billion of which came from the Defense Department).
After Biden canceled the project, the General Accounting Office launched an investigation in March to determine if he violated the law by halting the expenditure of congressionally mandated funds to private companies.
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“On his first day in office, Biden hit pause on billions of dollars set to be spent on his predecessor’s long-touted barrier between the U.S. and Mexico while his administration figured out the next steps for the money,” reported Politico.
“Now the Government Accountability Office is launching a review to determine whether the new president possibly broke the law by freezing the money in violation of budget rules designed to keep Congress in control of the cash flow, the federal watchdog confirmed this week,” the outlet continued.
CBP officials announced in January, before Trump left office, that the agency had already contracted for most of an additional 300 miles of wall, The Times reported.