Is President Joe Biden’s administration finally figuring out a border wall is important, or is it just being forced to use funds allocated during Donald Trump’s presidency to construct the barrier? The answer is probably a little bit of both, but nonetheless the whole affair is causing conflict. The new construction in Texas is a movable wall that is smaller, some say less effective, and causes issues for endangered species.
Biden’s Movable Border Wall
In September, the administration announced its plans to build a wall for nearly 20 miles in Starr County, TX. Instead of the 18-to-30-foot concrete-filled steel posts used during the Trump administration, the barricade will be much shorter, such as in Brownsville, where metal posts are embedded in four-foot-high cement blocks. Border Patrol agents will be able to move around the fencing. As Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) said, “So it’s one of those things where if they want to direct traffic, they can move it.”
Not everyone is a fan of the idea. “The United States Border Patrol did not ask for this downgraded border wall,” former Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott said.
Advocates for strengthening security say the movable wall is not strong enough and does not prevent the entry of or discourage illegal immigrants. Scott Nicol, a board member of the Friends of the Wildlife Corridor, said, “The one advantage for making it shorter is, I guess if somebody falls while they’re climbing over it, they aren’t falling as far.”
It’s not just those wanting an effective southern barrier that have a problem with the movable wall construction. Environmentalists claim the design poses a greater risk to animal habitat, more so than Trump’s border wall. Despite the backlash, the Biden administration is going forward, even waiving 26 federal laws protecting the environment and certain species. The Department of Homeland Security posted an announcement in the Federal Registry that the construction would ignore such laws as the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act. Jim Chapman, president of Friends of the Wildlife Corridor, a nonprofit environmental group in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, said:
lling off not only people from the river, but wildlife trying to get away from the river when there’s a flood or getting to the water. That’s basically the only water there is. It’s basically horrible.”
Laiken Jordahl of the Center for Biological Diversity noted that the corridor along the Rio Grande is “the last ribbon of habitat for a lot of species.” He added, “Bulldozing a border wall through the heart of that habitat is absolutely devastating. There’s not a lot of nature left in South Texas.”
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, being investigated for impeachment by the House Judiciary Committee for his handling of the border crisis, has been accused of downplaying the situation, yet the secretary seems to have changed his mind. He wrote, “There is presently an acute and immediate need to construct physical barriers and roads in the vicinity of the border of the United States in order to prevent unlawful entries into the United States in the project areas.”
Mayorkas called the Rio Grande Valley an area of “high illegal entry,” noting that “[a]s of early August 2023, Border Patrol had encountered over 245,000 such entrants attempting to enter the United States between ports of entry in the Rio Grande Valley Sector in Fiscal Year 2023.” Because of this, he felt required to “install additional physical barriers and roads in the Rio Grande Valley” and to “take immediate action to construct barriers and roads.”
Biden’s campaign promised he would not build another foot of wall, yet now, as the nation becomes overwhelmed by so many immigrants, the president has flipped, even embracing other Trump-era border security policies. Biden had said, “It shall be the policy of my administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall … 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.”
Trump took to his Truth Social platform, posting that Biden broke “every environmental law in the book to prove that I was right.” A White House official defended Biden, saying there was no choice but to use the funding as Congress appropriated it in 2019: “In order to follow the law, we had to use this money.”
Ever ready to defend his wall, Trump posted, “As I have stated often, over thousands of years, there are only two things that have consistently worked, wheels, and walls!” He added: “Will Joe Biden apologize to me and America for taking so long to get moving, and allowing our country to be flooded with 15 million illegals immigrants from places unknown. I will await his apology!”