President Biden, speaking after his administration announced border wall construction in Texas, said at the White House Thursday that he tried to “redirect” the money for the project.
“I’ll answer one question on the border wall, the border wall where money was appropriated for the border wall. I tried to get them to reappropriate, to redirect that money,” Biden said. “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 it was appropriated. I can’t stop that.”
When asked by a reporter if he believes a border wall works, Biden said “no.”
White House Communications Director Ben LaBolt later tweeted that “The funds for ~20 miles of border reinforcements were appropriated in 2019 before [Biden] took office.
“He called on Congress to reappropriate the funds for smarter, more effective enforcement uses. Congress failed to do so,” LeBolt added. “Rule of law requires the project be completed in 2023.”
Fox News Digital reported on Wednesday that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is citing an “acute and immediate need” to waive dozens of federal laws to build a border wall in south Texas where illegal migration has surged.
It’s a sharp contrast to dismissals of the use of such barriers in the early days of the administration.
The agency posted an announcement on the U.S. Federal Register that outlines construction in Starr County in the Rio Grande Valley Sector, where the administration says there is “high illegal entry.” The agency says there have been over 245,000 migrant encounters in the sector this fiscal year.
Mayorkas said he is using his authority provided by Congress to waive 26 federal laws, including the Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act and Endangered Species Act.
“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 in the project areas pursuant to sections 102(a) and 102(b) of [the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996],” Mayorkas said.
The administration had put a halt to new border wall construction in early 2021, after Biden had promised as a presidential candidate that there would “not be another foot of wall constructed on my administration.” The administration said wall construction under the Trump administration was “just one example of the prior administration’s misplaced priorities and failure to manage migration in a safe, orderly and humane way.”
However, the construction is funded by the fiscal year 2019 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill, which specifically funded wall projects in the Rio Grande Valley Sector and which DHS is required to use for its appropriated purpose.
The announcement comes as the Biden administration is facing a fresh surge in illegal immigration, leading to record-high numbers at the southern border and intense political criticism from both Republicans and Democrats. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) sources told Fox News last week there were more than 260,000 encounters in September, which would be the highest monthly total on record.