(AP) — Under a Biden administration
plan announced Friday, former President Donald Trump
's signature border wall
project would lose much of its funding, as well as the fast-track status that allowed it to avoid environmental regulations.
When President Joe Biden
took office, he halted construction of the wall while his administration reviewed it, which infuriated Republicans
who wanted to see it built amid an increase in migrant apprehensions along the southwest border.
The new plan does not completely cancel the wall project, but it is still likely to face opposition in Congress, where many Republicans are eager to promote a project associated with the former president.
Biden intends to return more than $2 billion diverted from the Pentagon
to help pay for the wall, as well as use other money
appropriated by Congress to address “urgent life, safety, and environmental issues” caused by the construction, and to ask lawmakers not to provide any additional funding for what the Biden team considers an unnecessary effort.
“Building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border and costs American taxpayers billions of dollars is neither a serious policy solution nor a responsible use of federal funds,” the Office
of Management and Budget said in a statement announcing the plan.
For decades, the government has built walls and other barriers along the 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) U.S.-Mexico border
to eliminate some of the easier ways to avoid checkpoints, and Trump has made the issue a focal point of his political identity.
Trump promised to build a “virtually impenetrable” wall, insisting that Mexico would pay for it; instead, his administration set aside about $15 billion through a combination of congressional appropriations and money taken from the Pentagon and other parts of the government.
The Trump administration
built approximately 450 miles (725 kilometers) of wall, moving
quickly by waiving environmental reviews and mediation requirements, though only approximately 52 miles (84 kilometers) were in areas where no barrier previously existed.
Following Biden's decision to halt construction, Republican senators requested that the Government Accountability Office investigate whether the administration was violating federal law by failing to use appropriated funds for their intended purpose.
The administration said on Friday that it will use funds already set aside by Congress for “their appropriated purpose, as required by law,” but that no new money for wall construction is being requested in the Department of Homeland Security
’s 2022 budget.
Instead, Biden is advocating for more funding for increased technology at ports of entry and elsewhere, claiming that there are more efficient ways to stop illegal immigration
and drug smuggling at the border.
The administration stated that it would return $2 billion taken from the Pentagon and use it for the construction projects for which it was originally intended, including $79 million for an elementary school for the children
of American service members in Germany
, $25 million for a fire and rescue
station at Tyndall Air Force
Base in Florida
, and $10 million to strengthen defenses against North Korea
It intends to use the remaining $1.9 million appropriated by Congress for the wall for drainage and erosion
control, as well as other environmental issues caused by wall construction in Texas
' Rio Grande Valley and elsewhere.
The administration does not explicitly state that it will not build a new wall, but it does state that any new construction will be subject to environmental review, and that it will review ongoing efforts to seize land from property owners through eminent domain and return parcels to the owners if the Department of Homeland Security determines it is not necessary.