Stephen Dinan, Washington Times, April 5, 2021
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told department employees he may restart border wall construction to plug what he called “gaps” in the current barrier.
In a conversation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees last week Mr. Mayorkas was asked about his plans for the wall and he said that while President Biden has canceled the border emergency and halted Pentagon money flowing to the wall, “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, has submitted a plan for what it wants to see happen moving forward.
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.
But with Mr. Trump out of office, the public is swinging back toward the wall, with a recent poll conducted for the Senate Opportunity Fund showing 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 that constructed more than 100 of those miles.
He vowed last year that he wouldn’t build “one more foot” of wall and 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 already 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 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’s 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 reason.
Congress over the last four years has allocated $1.375 billion each year for the wall, including in this current fiscal year.
Mr. Biden has not submitted a request to rescind that money.