Trump’s Unfinished Border Wall: What Happens To It?
The rush to complete President Donald Trump's promised border wall before he left office has only left behind an incomplete project — one inherited by an opposing administration now tasked with figuring out what to do with it.
The government under Trump completed about 452 miles of border wall since the project began in 2017, though almost all of that involved upgrading existing barriers. TIME reports that the previous administration built only 47 miles of new wall.
There were some 650 miles of wall before Trump took office, according to the BBC. (The southern border also features geographic obstacles, including the Rio Grande.)
According to The New York Times, most of the most recent, incomplete construction — which took place in January, shortly before Trump left office — will do little to deter immigrants from entering the U.S. But the barriers could prove dangerous in other ways: The construction sites increased erosion risk and, later this year, the potential for landslides.
Some of the walling stands totally alone. One such example is a quarter-mile fragment of border wall in Arizona's Huachuca Mountains. The Times reported this week that not only is the piece of wall in an area in which migrants rarely attempt to cross into the U.S., it can easily be walked around on either side.
The border wall was a signature part of Trump's campaign platform and a symbolic illustration of his hardline stance on immigration — and a project that he promised would be paid for by Mexico, which it was not.
On his first day in office after defeating Trump, President Joe Biden issued a proclamation halting construction on the wall for 60 days and diverting the funds used to build it until Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas determined how to proceed.
That deadline comes later that month and, until then, it's unclear exactly how the administration will move forward. The department had not responded to PEOPLE's request for comments.
In addition to the political implications, there are also a number of technical issues such as the erosion risks.
The Times reports that ranchers in the area are worried that "rough roads carved by work crews into hillsides near uncompleted segments of wall now serve as easy access points for smugglers and others seeking to enter the once-remote areas along the border."
In addition to the unfinished construction, the Biden administration has also inherited a number of outstanding (and expensive) contracts. The Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Homeland Security are reportedly working together to determine what to do with those contracts and the expensive equipment that's no longer in use.
There's also the question of long-term upkeep, which The Washington Post reported last year could go into the billions (the Post also reported that Congress had not been briefed on projected maintenance costs).
Nonetheless, Biden is being needled with calls from Republicans to finish construction, which the Times reported is one of the costliest projects in the country, thanks to its $15 billion price tag.
In a series of tweets in late February, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham wrote that various "holes" in the wall exist because "the Biden Administration refuses to finish construction."
The question of what to do with Trump's unfinished border wall comes amid a deepening migrant crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border — the latest startling surge in migrants in what has become a cycle in recent years.
On Tuesday, Mayorkas said the number of attempted migrant crossings at the southern border was set to reach a 20-year high, with the number of those coming to the U.S. (many of which are unaccompanied children) spurred in part by worsening conditions in Central America.
Many of the migrants also hope to find a more receptive president under Biden than with Trump.
Calling the unfolding situation at the border "a big problem," the White House recently announced it was working with FEMA to help transfer migrant children from overcrowded facilities to temporary shelters.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki pointed toward Donald Trump's administration, which she said left "a dismantled and unworkable system and, like any other problem, we are going to do everything we can to solve it."
On Wednesday, a group of Republicans including Graham held a press conference criticizing Biden for the border situation and his immigration plan.
"Biden has lost control of the U.S.-Mexican border. Until he regains control by implementing policies that work, it's going to be very hard to do the DREAMers or anybody else," Graham said. "What we have to do is regain control of the border, get it in a calmer status, sit down with Democrats who will find the middle, and the president himself has to get involved."
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