The Homeland Security Department said Monday it will push to finish the technology that was supposed to be part of President Trump’s border wall, and use other remaining money to fix issues the Biden administration says have emerged from previous construction.
Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the department has found “significant” problems with the more than 450 miles of wall built under former President Trump. The problems include “life, safety and environmental hazards,” the department said.
The new moves are meant to spend some $2 billion that Congress allocated to Customs and Border Protection to spend on wall-building from 2018 to 2020 but which wasn’t spent by the time Mr. Trump left office.
The Biden team has been trying to find ways to use the money without constructing more walls.
Building technology is the sweet spot that both the last administration and the current administration seem to agree on.
“CBP will use prior year border barrier system funds to complete the installation of border barrier system attributes (lighting, cameras, and detection technology), as previously planned and funded, in locations where physical barrier has already been constructed,” Homeland Security said.
A government audit last year found that while Mr. Trump completed more than 450 miles of wall panels, just 69 miles had the technology, roads and other add-ons that were supposed to be part of the “wall system.”
The Trump administration front-loaded construction of the barriers, rushing to meet Mr. Trump’s goal of getting panels erected, and put off completion of what the Biden team called other “system attributes.”
When Mr. Trump left office there were billions of dollars in the pipeline, and plans to erect nearly 300 more miles of fencing.
Mr. Biden canceled some of the money that Mr. Trump had siphoned from the Pentagon, but was unable to cancel $2 billion that Congress had allocated specifically to the wall.
The Biden team has gone through contortions to avoid using that money to erect barriers, with a particular focus on remediation of issues that it found from the Trump construction.
Mr. Mayorkas last year released his plan for the spending. Monday’s announcement was an update to that plan.
With the feds avoiding construction, states have stepped in. Texas and Arizona have both announced plans to build walls using their own money.