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The Hell? Biden Administration Building More Goddamn WALL In Texas? The Holy HELL?
In a move that US Customs and Border Protection says it simply has to do because Congress mandated it in 2019, the agency is moving forward with a plan to build an additional 20 miles or so of border wall in Texas, despite President Joe Biden’s Inauguration Day pledge that he would end Donald Trump’s Border Folly. At the time, Biden said that “building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border is not a serious policy solution.”
Look, you can probably spin this as “only” 20 new miles, which is definitely not the entire southern border, but it still sucks. At least nobody at the Department of Homeland Security is claiming Mexico will pay for it.
But according to a notice filed in the Federal Register this week, DHS will use its statutory authority (which predates the Trump years) to waive 26 federal laws to get the new section of WALL built. As the AP reports, that includes waivers to forego the “Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act and Endangered Species Act,” which worries Texas environmental advocates (stop laughing; Texas is 46 percent blue) who point out the planned WALL may impact areas with endangered plants and desert species like ocelots, or as the AP oddly phrases it, “the Ocelot, a spotted wild cat.”
Laiken Jordahl, a spokesperson for the Center for Biological Diversity, the environmental group that fought Trump’s WALL tooth and nail, warned Wednesday,
“A plan to build a wall through will bulldoze an impermeable barrier straight through the heart of that habitat. It will stop wildlife migrations dead in their tracks. It will destroy a huge amount of wildlife refuge land. And it’s a horrific step backwards for the borderlands.”
In the Federal Register notice, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas identified the stretch of border in Starr County, Texas, part of the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley Sector, as an area of “high illegal entry,” noting that as of August, the Border Patrol had “encountered over 245,000 such entrants attempting to enter the United States between ports of entry” in the current fiscal year, which began October 1, 2022.
Mayorkas wrote that
“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.”
In a June announcement, US Customs and Border Protection said it just hadda use the money that Congress appropriated to build WALL in 2019, really, noting that the project was “consistent with” Biden’s executive order to end funding WALL construction with diverted military and other funding. Even after returning a “substantial portion of unobligated funds” to the Pentagon, the announcement said, DHS was “legally mandated to use the remaining FY2019 funds for their appropriated purpose,” i.e. WALL.
That June announcement includes a very weird “stop us before we build something you’ll regret” section that practically begs Congress to redirect those leftover WALL funds, please.
Today, CBP has an estimated $190M remaining in FY 2019 funding. The Administration continues to call on Congress to cancel or reappropriate remaining border barrier funding and instead fund smarter border security measures, like border technology and modernization of land ports of entry, that are proven to be more effective at improving safety and security at the border. Until and unless Congress cancels these funds, the law requires DHS to use the funds consistent with their appropriated purpose. DHS first pursued other priority projects in RGV with the appropriated FY 2019 funding, including life, safety, environmental, and other remediation measures, system attributes for existing barrier, and environmental mitigation projects.
Translation: We spent as much as we could on other stuff allowed by the appropriation, but we still have this $190 million what has “BUILD WALL” written on it. So we’re going to have to, well, you know…
As of yet, Biden hasn’t commented publicly on the planned WALL expansion, perhaps because he can’t stop giggling as he does his own version of Cleavon Little holding a gun to his own head in Blazing Saddles. Just for godssakes don’t say the line, Joe!
Predictably, Donald Trump and his MAGA crowd are declaring victory; Trump told Fox News Wednesday that obviously Biden had simply come to his senses and now supports every lie Trump has ever told about the border. Conflating the total number of undocumented immigrants in the US with recent increases in border crossings, and then lying that every single asylum seeker is a drugged-up would-be killer maniac rapist terrorist, Trump claimed,
"Biden sees our country is being invaded. […] What is he going to do about the 15 million people from prisons, from mental institutions, insane asylums, and terrorists that have already come into our country?"
Trump went on to insist that Biden must now reinstate Trump’s own immigration policies like “remain in Mexico” and even Title 42, the pandemic regulation that allowed widespread deportations. Nobody at Fox pointed out to him that the pandemic state of emergency ended in May, but who cares, the law is what Donald Trump says it is.
In conclusion, this will almost certainly all get stupider before it gets better, the end.
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