Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas may have had a change of heart regarding the border wall.
Mayorkas reportedly told Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees last week that he may restart border wall construction to plug what he called “gaps” in the current barrier.
He has previously suggested that he doesn’t believe a wall across the entire United States-Mexico border is necessary. Joe Biden vowed last year that he wouldn’t build “one more foot” of wall and imposed a halt on construction on Inauguration Day.
The DHS chief was asked about his plans for the wall and he said that even though Joe Biden has halted Pentagon funding for the wall, “that leaves room to make decisions” on finishing some “gaps in the wall.”
Mayorkas said Customs and Border Protection has submitted a plan for the border wall, according to notes from the ICE session reviewed by The Washington Times.
“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 added.
He said those areas 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’s 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Most of that construction came where a barrier already existed, replacing outdated designs or vehicle barriers that did nothing to stop people on foot.
The new wall is more than just the steel slats. Officials describe it as a system, one that includes technology to allow agents to detect incursions and high-speed roads to allow them to reach trouble spots faster so that agents can interdict anyone who does make it over.
According to a Washington Times report last month, Biden’s halt on construction left holes in the wall in Cochise County, Arizona, “where miles of road were already finished but the wall was not.”
That situation has allowed smugglers to use the road as their own highway to “transport their illegal cargo, whether people or drugs, deeper into the country faster,” a county sheriff said.
“We just built roads for the cartels,” Sheriff Mark Dannels told the Times.
During his Senate confirmation hearing on January 19, Mayorkas did not commit to not tearing down existing border wall built by the Trump administration, but also said, “we don’t need, nor should we have, a monolithic answer to that varied and diverse challenge.”
According to the Times, Customs and Border Protection said back in early January that it still had about 300 more miles of wall to build, and much of that was already under contract.
On the behest of Republican lawmakers, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) last month launched an inquiry into whether Joe Biden violated the Impoundment Control Act when he halted construction of the border wall.
Congress approved nearly $1.4 billion in border wall funding in December 2020 for fiscal year 2021 as part of former a $900 billion coronavirus stimulus package. Biden may not have been legally permitted to end the construction because the funding for the project had already been approved
Roy Blunt, chair of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, told Politico: “He knows it’s the Congress’ job to authorize how the money is spent and the president’s job to spend it efficiently.”
“Those legal questions may force Mr. Mayorkas to build more wall,” The Times noted.
Trump administration officials claimed last year that the border wall helped cut illegal immigration by more than 80 percent.
A recent poll conducted for the Senate Opportunity Fund showed that 53 percent of the American people now favor construction of a wall on the southern border.