The Washington Times Weekly
Homeland Security looks to restart wall
Director hopes to plug ‘gaps’ left by Biden’s order to halt project
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told department employees that he may restart border wall construction to plug what he called “gaps” in the barrier.
Mr. Mayorkas was asked about his plans for the wall during a conversation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees recently. Although Mr. Biden canceled the border emergency order and halted Pentagon money flowing to construction of the wall, he said, “that leaves room to make decisions” on finishing some “gaps in the wall.”
Mr. Mayorkas, according to notes of the ICE session reviewed by The Washington Times, said Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the wall, submitted a proposal.
“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 secretary 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 said.
He said those parts include “gaps,” “gates” and areas “where the wall has been completed but the technology has not been implemented.”
CBP did not return a message seeking comment on what was submitted to Mr. Mayorkas.
Mark Morgan, who served as acting commissioner of CBP under President Trump, said Mr. Mayorkas’ comments were “more spin and misdirection.”
He said CBP has always given the administration options for how to proceed on the wall.
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Most of that construction was replacing outdated designs or vehicle barriers that did nothing to stop people on foot.
The new wall is more than steel slats. Officials describe it as a system that includes technology to allow agents to detect incursions and high-speed roads to allow them to reach trouble spots faster so agents can interdict anyone who makes it across the border.
That a question about the wall came from employees at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which handles
interior enforcement and deportation rather than border matters, shows how deeply the wall has penetrated the psychology of Homeland Security.
It’s sparked fierce devotees, including Border Patrol agents themselves, and rabid opponents.
With Mr. Trump out of office, public sentiment is swinging back toward the wall. A recent poll conducted for the Senate Opportunity Fund showed 53% now favor construction.
President Biden, however, remains an opponent despite voting as a senator for 700 miles of border fencing and being part of the Obama administration, which constructed more than 100 of those miles.
He vowed last year that he wouldn’t build
“one more foot” of wall. On Inauguration Day, he imposed a full stop on construction.
The Washington Times reported last month that the halt left holes in the wall in Cochise County, Arizona, where miles of road were finished but the wall was not.
The county sheriff said smugglers were using the road as their own highway, helping them get their illegal cargo, whether people or drugs, deeper into the country faster.
“We just built roads for the cartels,” Sheriff Mark Dannels said.
Mr. Biden, when he announced his wall pause, gave the Department of Homeland Security the task of figuring out how to proceed, within legal limits.
Those legal questions may force Mr.
Mayorkas to build more wall. The Washington Times reported in January that experts on congressional and presidential powers said Mr. Biden’s halt likely violated what is known as the Impoundment Control Act.
Under that law, when Congress flexes its power of the purse to allocate money for a purpose, the administration must carry it out. The only exceptions are when there are questions of efficiency or when the president officially submits a revocation request. Policy disagreements are not sufficient reasons.
Congress over the past four years has allocated $1.375 billion each year for the wall, including in the current fiscal year.
Mr. Biden has not submitted a request to rescind that money.