- U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, Republican from Louisiana and ranking member of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border Security, announced he is introducing the Finish the Wall Act, which would force President Joe Biden's administration to restart construction of the border wall between the United States and Mexico.
- Among other things, the act would see the resumption of border wall construction within 24 hours of its enactment; prevent the Department of Homeland Security from canceling border wall construction contracts; and require that the DHS spend all funds appropriated or obligated to border wall construction since 2017.
- The bill, according to Higgins' press release, has more than 60 co-sponsors and is one of House Republicans' "five pillars" related to immigration at the southern border. Higgins said that by stopping work on the border wall, the Biden administration has "created large security gaps, ended thousands of construction jobs, violated signed contracts and left behind huge stockpiles of high-quality steel stacked on private land and unused."
About 172,000 migrants were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border last month, the most in two decades, Bloomberg reports. They are drawn to the U.S. by the promise of work and stability in an economy expected to explode with post-pandemic opportunities, and an administration promising more humane treatment after the harsher Donald Trump years.
Rep. Higgins' act would also require the DHS secretary to submit a plan to Congress outlining benchmarks for physical barriers, technology, roads and lighting.
It contradicts the border wall elements in the $1.5 trillion discretionary funding request Biden sent to the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this month. The White House did not ask for any new border wall construction funding and wants any unobligated border wall money to be canceled. From 2018 to 2021, Congress allocated $1.4 billion for wall projects, including repair and replacement. The president did, however, ask for $1.2 billion for technology and other non-construction projects at the border.
The measure also contradicts Biden's January executive order that required construction at the border to stop until federal agencies had a chance to assess border wall status and determine how the administration will proceed with contracts already underway. The White House has not yet announced if those in-progress projects will continue.
The Senate has also pushed back against Biden's border policy by asking the U.S. Government Accountability Office Comptroller Gene L. Dodaro to provide a legal opinion as to whether Biden violated the Impoundment Control Act by stopping construction. The act prohibits a president from withholding money obligated by Congress.
At least one lawmaker in Texas, though, is willing to see the state take on the task of border wall construction. Republican Texas House Rep. Bryan Slaton's bill would create a special fund that would pay for all aspects of site planning, design and construction. However, Texas would seek reimbursement from the federal government.