Jun 11, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden administration unveils plans for Trump's border wall funds

A portion of U.S.-Mexico border wall stands unfinished on April 14, 2021 near La Joya, Texas.

A portion of U.S.-Mexico border wall stands unfinished on near La Joya, Texas. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The Biden administration is returning more than $2 billion redirected from Department of Defense projects for Trump's border wall, and is again calling on Congress to cancel other remaining border wall funds.

Why it matters: Biden had promised not to build "another foot" of President Trump's infamous border wall if elected. One of his first executive actions paused construction of the wall, and called for a plan for the funds in 60 days — a deadline that passed in March.

  • "Building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border and costs American taxpayers billions of dollars is not a serious policy solution or responsible use of Federal funds," according to an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) release.

What's happening: DOD has already started ending border wall projects that used diverted funds, and the administration said they are ending the expansion of the wall whenever legally possible.

  • Funds will be returned to sixty-six different Defense projects, including for military housing, on-base schools and training facilities.
  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is also reviewing land acquired in past year by eminent domain actions for the border wall. If the land is needed, it will engage with landowners and if not, the agency "will work to return the land to its prior owners."

Yes, but: The administration is legally required to use an estimated $1.9 billion in funds on border barriers, as they were specifically directed to be used by Congress.

  • It's why the administration is "reiterating its call for Congress to cancel funds it previously appropriated for border barrier projects so that these resources can instead be used for modern, effective border management measures to improve safety and security."

With those funds, DHS will prioritize "urgent life, safety, and environmental issues resulting from the previous Administration’s wall construction" as well as for clean-up of DOD-funded construction sites, according to OMB.

  • The administration announced earlier this year that they would resume construction on an important flood wall in the Rio Grande Valley area of South Texas, as well as address dangerous issues with soil erosion along a 14-mile segment of border wall in San Diego, California.

By the numbers: The Trump administration built 52 miles of new slatted structures where there had been no previous barrier, in addition to hundreds of miles of replacement fencing. Some segments cost as much as $46 million per mile, according to the OMB release.

Go deeper