President Biden halted construction on border wall projects along the U.S.-Mexico boundary within hours of taking office Wednesday, marking what might be the end to one of the Trump administration’s highest-profile undertakings.

“The proclamation directs an immediate pause in wall construction projects to allow a close review of the legality of the funding and contracting methods used, and to determine the best way to redirect funds that were diverted by the prior Administration to fund wall construction,” the White House executive order stated.

More than 450 miles have been installed since former President Donald Trump took office in January 2017. However, he did not keep one of his biggest campaign promises: to build 1,000 miles of border wall for $4 billion and get Mexico to pay for it.

Seven hundred and thirty-eight miles have been funded for $15.5 billion, including $10 billion diverted from the Treasury and Pentagon. The 450 miles installed to date are in place of old fencing and in new areas. Approximately one-third of the 738 miles is new in the sense that it will go in previously unsecured areas of the border, though the new barriers are far superior to the flimsy, short fences that they replaced.

The White House has not revealed what it will do with contracts for the remaining 290 miles, including how it will pay workers and for materials.

Border wall projects have been undertaken in all four states that span the 2,000-mile border with Mexico: California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.

Customs and Border Protection, which oversees federal law enforcement operations at the borders, determined where the funding would be spent. It differentiated between border wall that is just one wall and border wall that is “secondary,” or an additional wall behind the first so that if people do get over it, they face another obstacle to get around.

While Biden is stopping wall construction following an outcry from his party during the Trump administration, government-funded border wall construction is nothing new. Projects took off in the 1990s, when former President Bill Clinton approved a Border Patrol hiring surge and infrastructure package.

A decade later, during the George W. Bush administration, Congress approved the Secure Fence Act, which funded more than 650 miles of barrier. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi voted in support for the bill. Half of the 650 miles of barrier funded in the legislation were short fences just tall enough to block vehicles from driving across rural parts of the border, while the other half was tall enough to prevent people from illegally walking over. Border wall projects continued, albeit at far slower rates, under the Obama administration.

This map shows where border wall projects have been completed along the U.S.-Mexico boundary.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection

The Trump administration began a lengthy prototype phase in 2017 to test four concrete and four nonconcrete barriers. Elements of the eight designs were incorporated into the final design.

The wall that CBP decided to build ranges from 18 to 30 feet above the ground and is rooted in a concrete bed to keep it stable and to prevent shallow tunnels. It is slatted, which Border Patrol agents preferred because it allows them to see what is going on beyond the barrier, but the beams are close enough that people cannot pass through. The slats are filled with rebar and cement to prevent efforts to cut through it easily, and anti-climb steel plates sit atop the slatted portion to make scaling the fence difficult.

The border wall “system,” as homeland security officials refer to it, includes the physical barrier, a host of technology options, paved and gravel roads, and lighting.

Builders put up more border wall during the coronavirus pandemic than earlier in Trump’s tenure. However, a Government Accountability Office report in July 2018 blasted CBP for proceeding on the wall without key information on cost and how previous barrier and technology introductions have helped.

The Trump administration did not install a single mile of wall in a previously unfenced part of the border in its first 30 months in office, instead focusing on replacement projects. The delays in getting started were due to a number of reasons, including poor planning early on, problems acquiring private and public land, and funding shortages.

Author: Anna Giaritelli

Source: Washington Examiner: Biden orders an ‘immediate pause’ on all border wall construction

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