Workers last week install segments of a new 13-mile stretch of border wall in the desert between Sunlad Park, N. M., and Ciudad Juárez, in Mexico’s Chihuahua state.
Construction crews building the steel wall along the U. S.-Mexico border were ordered to a sudden halt Wednesday after President Biden delivered on a campaign promise and hit “pause” on the Trump administration’s signature infrastructure project.
Biden’s order rescinded the national emergency declaration used by President Donald Trump to divert about $10 billion from Defense Department accounts toward the barrier, one of the costliest federal infrastructure projects in U. S. history. But it remains unclear whether Biden has the authority to cancel the completion of wall segments paid for with the $6.5 billion Congress has appropriated for the project.
“The proclamation directs an immediate pause in wall construction projects to allow a close review of the legality of the funding and contracting methods used, and to determine the best way to redirect funds that were diverted by the prior Administration to fund wall construction,” Biden’s order states, without indicating how long the pause will last, according to a fact sheet released Wednesday by the incoming administration.
The Trump administration completed 455 miles of new barriers along the Mexico boundary, an undertaking whose main achievement was the replacement of smaller, more permeable anti-
Many of the segments that remain unfinished are in South Texas, where much of the land on which the government seeks to build is privately held along the Rio Grande’s winding course.
The funding appropriated by Congress since 2018 is enough to pay for 298 miles of barrier, about 71 miles of which have been completed, according to the latest U. S. Customs and Border Protection figures.
That would potentially oblige the Biden administration to complete up to 227 additional miles of border wall, unless the contract review determines a way to block or cancel those segments, according to officials involved with the project who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.
Biden also could opt to allow contractors to finish installing roadways, gates, sensors and other elements of the project, while upholding his campaign pledge to not build “another foot” of barrier.
A spokesperson for the Biden transition team declined to provide additional details about the contract review and the pause. CBP officials referred inquiries to the White House.
The cost of keeping work crews idle was not immediately clear.
The stop-work order was celebrated by opponents of the project, including environmental activists, landowners and officials in border communities.
“The president’s quick action on this executive order is an important step toward repairing the senseless destruction and xenophobia that have shattered the borderlands for four years,” said Laiken Jordahl, an environmental activist with Arizona’s Center for Biological Diversity who has led opposition to the project.
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