The Biden administration has approved $950 million in contracts to repair and upgrade part of existing border wall construction in Arizona, California and Texas, recent court filings show, using money from Trump-era congressional appropriations.
In court documents, first reported by The New York Post, the Department of Homeland Security says that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has awarded contracts for repair work and “system attribute installation” in the San Diego, El Centro, El Paso and Tucson Sectors.
Remediation work includes closing gaps, installing gates, and improving roads and drainage systems. “System attribute installation” includes putting in cameras, roads and detection technology to enhance the border wall. Other contracts include installing anti-climb features on wall in San Diego, IT support and environmental planning. None of the money is awarded for additional wall construction.
The filing says that CBP awarded the contracts in September for approximately $950 million combined. They are funded from the FY 2020 and FY 2021 congressional appropriations. The appropriations mean that unless Congress diverts the money elsewhere, the administration must spend it on its appropriated purpose. The administration has said it has previously tried to have Congress divert wall-related funding elsewhere.
The agency will also make additional awards in the coming months. It says that it has $12.7 million remaining in FY 2020 barrier system funds and $670 million in FY 21 funding.
The Biden administration shut down all additional wall construction shortly after entering office in 2021. The administration said wall construction under the Trump administration was “just one example of the prior administration’s misplaced priorities and failure to manage migration in a safe, orderly and humane way.”
The administration, however, was accused of changing course last month when DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas cited an “acute and immediate need” to waive dozens of federal regulations in order to build 20 miles of wall to prevent illegal entries using FY 2019 appropriations in South Texas.
Mayorkas took criticism from Republicans and Democrats for allegedly changing course on the border wall. But Mayorkas said there has been no change in position by the administration.
“The construction project reported today was appropriated during the prior administration in 2019 and the law requires the government to use these funds for this purpose, which we announced earlier this year. We have repeatedly asked Congress to rescind this money but it has not done so and we are compelled to follow the law,” he said in a statement.
“This Administration believes that effective border security requires a smarter and more comprehensive approach, including state-of the-art border surveillance technology and modernized ports of entry. We need Congress to give us the funds to implement these proven tools.”
Republicans have repeatedly called for wall construction to resume amidst the ongoing crisis at the southern border. Sweeping legislation that passed the GOP-held House earlier this year would mandate the restarting of border wall construction. However, that bill is yet to receive any Democratic support.