(The Center Square) – A North Carolina congressman has introduced a bill to require the federal government to restart rebuilding the border wall, which was halted by President Joe Biden.
U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, R-NC, introduced the Build the Wall Now Act, which removes all legal impediments to building the border wall. Among other things, it unlocks an additional $2.1 billion that was appropriated in fiscal years 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 that weren’t spent.
Congress allocated $6 billion for the wall’s construction between fiscal years 2018 and 2021, according to the General Accounting Office.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt sued the administration last fall, asking the court to require the administration to resume building the wall using funds already appropriated by Congress.
Within a month of the AGs’ lawsuit, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it was using the money on environmental and cleanup projects in certain areas of Arizona, California and Texas. Funds would be used to “address life, safety, environmental, and remediation requirements for border barrier projects” in the San Diego, El Centro, Yuma, Tucson, El Paso, and Del Rio Border Patrol sectors.
As the AGs’ lawsuit makes its way through court and as border communities brace for an estimated roughly 18,000 people expected to come through the southern border after Title 42 is repealed next month, Budd said, “The best way to end the Biden Border Crisis is to finish the border wall now.”
“The Biden administration is trying to run out the regulatory clock on wall construction while undermining our border patrol officers by repealing Title 42,” he said in a statement. “Every time I visit the southern border, law enforcement agents tell me how Biden’s open border policy is endangering our national security and the safety of the entire interior of our country.”
Title 42 is a public health authority that allows Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents to quickly process and deport illegal immigrants under a public health emergency. It was used by the Trump administration to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The Biden administration announced it was ending it May 23.
As long as Democrats hold a majority in Congress and Biden remains president, the bill isn’t expected to become law. But it’s an example of Republicans increasingly frustrated with the administration’s open border policies filing legislation in Congress as immigration lawsuits remain tied up in courts.
Even while Title 42 was being used, in Biden’s first year in office, roughly two million people from over 150 countries were apprehended or encountered by CBP agents entering the U.S. illegally. This number excludes an estimated several hundred thousand who evaded law enforcement.
All funding for the border wall was suspended on Biden’s first day in office. It costs taxpayers $3 million a day to not build the wall due to contractual obligations with the construction firm tasked with building it.
The administration has claimed it “inherited a broken immigration system – one that wasted billions of taxpayer dollars and neither kept the American people safe nor adhered to our values” and that constructing a border wall was a “misplaced priority.”
Of the 450 miles of the wall built by the Trump administration, only 52 miles was constructed “where no barrier previously existed, with some wall segments costing American taxpayers up to $46 million per mile,” the administration said.
Paxton and Schmitt argue the wall is a successful deterrent and halting construction violated the Separation of Powers, the Take Care Clause, the Impoundment Control Act of 1974, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the Consolidated Appropriations Acts of 2020 and 2021.
Additionally, DHS “has admitted that a physical border wall is an effective defense in curtailing illegal immigration,” they argue. In their brief, they point to a 2018 DHS assessment of the effectiveness of physical barriers, which states, “Walls Work. When it comes to stopping drugs and illegal aliens from crossing our borders, walls have proven extremely effective.” DHS noted that a border wall in one sector alone led to a 90% decrease in border apprehensions.
As the federal wall remains unfinished, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott began building a border wall on Texas soil.
“Texas is taking what truly is unprecedented action by any state ever,” Abbott said in December when a section of the wall was erected in Rio Grande City. Texas was building a wall “on our border to secure the sovereignty of the United States as well as our own state,” he said. “And this unprecedented action is needed for one single reason, and that’s because the Biden administration has failed to do its job as required by law as passed by Congress to enforce the immigration laws of the United States of America.”