WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 28: U.S. President Joe Biden signs executive actions in the Oval Office of the White House on January 28, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden signed a series of executive actions Thursday afternoon aimed at expanding access to health care, including re-opening enrollment for health care offered through the federal marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act. (Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)

Biden Pauses Trump’s Border Wall

Succeeding his inauguration, President Joe Biden signed an order halting  the construction of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Being one of the Trump administration’s major legislative agendas, the barrier had reached 455 miles in length before its pause.  Previously planned sections of the border wall remain incomplete, waiting for permanent action to be declared. 

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President Joe Biden during his inaugural ceremony | Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

Biden’s presidential proclamation paused the project’s development and funds. Trump’s declaration of a national emergency, which was used to divert millions of dollars from the Defense Department’s accounts to the wall after Congress refused to give the needed money, was repealed as well. 

“It shall be the policy of my Administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall,” Biden’s proclamation states. “I am also directing a careful review of all resources appropriated or redirected to construct a southern border wall.”

The wall was implemented by the former president with the express intent to secure the southern border and lessen illegal crossings. The construction replaced outdated fencing with a more secure system allowing for increasingly effective patrols. Many people are supporting the continuation of the wall, hoping for the additional security it allows. 

A member of construction works on a new section of the border wall | Photo Courtesy of PBS News

“This historic accomplishment, it doesn’t just stand tall as a simple reminder of promises made to the American people and promises kept,” Acting Commissioner, Mark Morgan, said in an interview with USA Today. “But it stands as a reminder of our wavering commitment to do everything that we can to ensure that we have the tools to protect our national and economic security.”

However, other people argue that the barrier’s security is undermined by the high cost. Being one of the most expensive infrastructure projects in U.S. history, Trump intended to end numerous issues mentioning drug trafficking as a central one. Nevertheless, the barrier was proven to be ineffective against illegal drugs as they tend to be transported with hidden tactics through legal points. According to the BBC, the illegal crossings did reduce in 2020 but it was unlikely due to the barrier itself. Immigration experts believe the series of anit-immigration policies by the Trump administration were the main cause of reduction. 

The executive order under President Biden will allow the administration to assess the funds involved in construction and any potential consequences of halting it. The administration has two months to gather detailed information on construction contracts and to develop a plan redirecting the border wall’s funds. 

Although the signed executive order declared the cease of progression on the project, it does not mention the removal of the steel barrier. Activists and environmentalists are advocating to tear down the newer areas of the wall in order to restore the destroyed environments and allow wildlife to return to their original habitats. 

“Take down the wall in the critical corridors for wildlife that are usually watered places, rivers and oases,” Gary Nabhan, ecologist and writer, said in an interview with NPR. “It’s going to take a herculean effort to undo the damage.”

A border wall construction site is seen mostly abandoned after Joe Biden signed an executive order halting construction in Sunland Park, New Mexico, on 22 January.
Construction in Sunland Park, New Mexico| Photo Courtesy of The Guardian

Southern Texas, where most of the illegal crossings occur, provided a challenge for the border wall project as most of the land is privately owned. Landowners had been resisting the government’s possession of their land, which encouraged  the government under Trump to file around 200 lawsuits in response. Recently, government lawyers have closed many cases regarding the possession of Texan land, but numerous cases remain pending. 

“I’m hoping they’re using this time to get their ducks in a row to cancel these contracts,” Ricky Garza, attorney for Texas Civil Rights Project representing landowners, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “I’m concerned we’ll get into a situation where the zombie walks forward, but is never actually killed.”

People are anticipating a permanent solution declaring the discontinuation of the border wall. The Biden administration’s quick action against the barrier makes it seem as though there will be no progression regarding the wall’s construction.

Written by Victoria Trieu

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