President Joe Biden is encountering criticism from both sides of the political spectrum following the announcement of new border wall construction in Texas. The president cited the funding’s approval during Donald Trump’s presidency as the reason he cannot halt the work.
Members of the Democratic Party argue that walls are ineffective, while rival Republicans accuse Biden of hypocrisy. Approximately 20 miles (32km) of barriers are planned for construction in a sparsely populated area of the Rio Grande Valley.
During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden pledged not to build any more wall if elected, describing it as an inadequate policy solution. However, his administration approved the construction of new barriers in southern Texas on Thursday.
The growing presence of migrants in US cities like New York has posed a challenge for Biden, who has faced considerable criticism for his border management. Since the beginning of the fiscal year in October, US authorities have detained over 2.2 million migrants.
The funding for the new border barrier, first announced in late June, was approved during the 2019 fiscal year under Trump’s presidency, according to US officials and President Biden. A senior administration official attributed the new construction to Congress, stating that it resisted efforts to cancel the funds in Biden’s first budget request in May 2021. Appropriated funds must be used for their intended purpose unless both the Senate and House of Representatives approve rescission.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas explained, “We have repeatedly asked Congress to rescind this money, but it has not done so, and we are compelled to follow the law.” However, this explanation contradicts a project notice on the US Federal Registry, in which Mayorkas cited an “acute and immediate need to construct physical barriers and roads in the vicinity of the border of the United States to prevent unlawful entries.”
Building a border wall was a signature policy of Donald Trump’s presidency and was strongly opposed by Democrats, including Biden. Trump commented on the new construction, claiming it validates his stance and demanding an apology from Biden.
Republicans also criticized Biden for what they perceive as a sudden shift in policies he campaigned against. Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar voiced opposition to the wall and advocated for more personnel and technology to address border challenges. Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez labeled the policy as “cruel” and called on Biden to reconsider it.
The decision has drawn criticism from advocacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which characterized it as a “profound failure.” ACLU Border Strategies Director Jonathan Blazer criticized the administration for doubling down on ineffective policies.
In August, US Border Patrol apprehended 181,059 individuals along the southern border, an increase from 132,648 in July. Additionally, the administration announced the resumption of deportations of illegal Venezuelan migrants, with approximately 50,000 arriving at the US-Mexico border in September alone.