Army contractors stop work on US-Mexico border wall, troops to remain for now
By ROSE L. THAYER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 21, 2021
AUSTIN, Texas — The Army Corps of Engineers has directed contractors building the U.S.-Mexico border wall to stop work following an executive order by President Joe Biden to end construction and review how money allocated for the project could be diverted.
The order was one of 17 signed by Biden on Wednesday during his first day as president and halts a key piece of former President Donald Trump’s immigration policy. Estimated to cost about $15 billion, the border wall’s construction was under management of contracts awarded through the Army Corps of Engineers and used funds pulled from Defense Department accounts associated with countering drugs and military construction, as well as from other government agencies.
“Only construction activity that is necessary to safely prepare each site for a suspension of work will occur over the next few days,” Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell, a Pentagon spokesman, said Thursday. “As we pause this program, we will work closely with the Department of Defense and Department of the Army to ensure public safety and a responsible use of taxpayer dollars.”
Biden’s order states while America has the right to secure its borders, “building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border is not a serious policy solution. It is a waste of money that diverts attention from genuine threats to our homeland security.”
Biden also rescinded the national emergency that Trump declared at the border in February 2019 and recertified in his final five days as president.
But Biden's executive order does not impact the deployment of about 3,600 troops serving at the border to assist the Department of Homeland Security, Mitchell said. Up to 4,000 troops are authorized to stay at the border through the end of September under an order signed in June by former Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
It is unclear Thursday what will happen to the money redirected from the Pentagon to build the border wall. Biden’s action calls for “a careful review of all resources appropriated or redirected to construct a southern border wall.”
About 450 miles of border wall were completed under the Trump administration, though much of that involved renovation of already established border barriers. About 338 miles were under construction as of October, according to the Department of Homeland Security.