On Friday, the Biden administration canceled two border wall contracts along 31 miles of the Rio Grande in South Texas—continuing the process it began this spring of dismantling one of the Trump administration’s signature initiatives.
The two contracts had previously been funded in 2020, but Biden’s Department of Homeland Security announced on Friday that they are “not necessary to address any life, safety, environmental, or other remediation requirements.”
The Trump administration had planned to spend about $15 billion to construct a border wall along the Southwest border of the US in an effort to crack down on crossings by undocumented immigrants, whom they deemed a threat to American security. Immigration and environmental activists alike blasted the wall plan—the former for imperiling immigrants fleeing dangerous or difficult circumstances, and the latter because wall construction threatened to disrupt natural habitats and endanger more than 100 threatened animal species who roam at the border. Nor do some portions of the wall constructed under Trump appear to do much to prevent border crossings, as they are easily scaled with a ladder.
The contracts canceled on Friday were the first to be terminated under a plan announced by the Department of Homeland Security in June to divert the billions of dollars allocated for the border wall to other priorities. The Department is legally required to use the funds—which were already appropriated by Congress—for projects on the border. So DHS announced last month that the money would be used to address environmental damage at the border, including soil erosion in Southern California and structural concerns on levees meant to prevent flooding near the Rio Grande.
On his first day in office in January, Biden paused construction of the wall and announced a review of all the funds that had been appropriated for construction, calling the project “a waste of money that diverts attention from genuine threats to our homeland security.”
About $10 billion of the funds for Trump’s border wall had been set to come from the Department of Defense, diverted from military projects. The Biden administration terminated the remainder of these contracts in April. DHS said in its Friday announcement that it would continue to review the paused border projects that had been set to come from Homeland Security funds. It also urged the administration “to call on Congress to cancel remaining border wall funding and instead fund smarter border security measures.”