President Biden terminated the national emergency proclamation used by former President Trump to build a wall on the southern border and declared by executive order Wednesday that work on the wall will stop within days.
Trump initially declared a national emergency two years ago to bypass a congressional standoff over funding the project and divert military construction funds to the wall. Days before Biden was sworn in, Trump extended the national emergency designation through Feb. 15, 2022.
“The ongoing border security and humanitarian crisis at the southern border of the United States continues to threaten our national security, including by exacerbating the effect of the pandemic caused by COVID-19,” Trump said in the Jan. 15 extension under the National Emergencies Act. “The executive branch has taken steps to address the crisis, but further action is needed to address the humanitarian crisis and to control unlawful migration and the flow of narcotics and criminals across the southern border of the United States.”
Biden’s executive order says that the national emergency is “terminated and that the authorities invoked in that proclamation will no longer be used to construct a wall at the southern border.”
“Like every nation, the United States has a right and a duty to secure its borders and protect its people against threats. But building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border is not a serious policy solution. It is a waste of money that diverts attention from genuine threats to our homeland security. My Administration is committed to ensuring that the United States has a comprehensive and humane immigration system that operates consistently with our Nation’s values,” Biden said, adding that it “shall be the policy of my Administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall.”
As fas as funds already appropriated for wall construction, Biden directed “a careful review of all resources appropriated or redirected to construct a southern border wall.”
The executive order directs the Department of Homeland Security, consulting with the Office of Management and Budget director, to “pause work on each construction project on the southern border wall, to the extent permitted by law, as soon as possible but in no case later than seven days from the date of this proclamation, to permit assessment of the legality of the funding and contracting methods used to construct the wall” and “assessment of the administrative and contractual consequences of ceasing each wall construction project.”
It immediately halts “the obligation of funds related to construction of the southern border wall” and orders a detailed report on “all southern border wall construction contracts, the completion status of each wall construction project, and the funds used for wall construction since February 15, 2019.”
DHS “may make an exception to the pause, however, for urgent measures needed to avert immediate physical dangers or where an exception is required to ensure that funds appropriated by the Congress fulfill their intended purpose,” Biden’s order states.
The Pentagon, DHS, OMB, Treasury Department and Justice Department “shall develop a plan for the redirection of funds concerning the southern border wall” within 60 days that includes “consideration of terminating or repurposing contracts with private contractors engaged in wall construction, while providing for the expenditure of any funds that the Congress expressly appropriated for wall construction, consistent with their appropriated purpose.”
“After the plan is developed, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall take all appropriate steps to resume, modify, or terminate projects and to otherwise implement the plan,” the order adds.
Before leaving office, Trump journeyed to Texas to declare he had built 450 miles of border wall. Only 47 of those miles are new, while the rest replaced existing barriers in need of repair or shorter pedestrian/vehicle barriers.
Homeland Security secretary nominee Alejandro Mayorkas told senators this week that DHS would study “the question of what we do with respect to the wall that has already been built.”
“The border is varied, depending on the geography, depending on the specific venue, and depending on the conduct of individuals around it,” Mayorkas said. “And we don’t need nor should we have a monolithic answer to that varied and diverse challenge.”