(WASHINGTON) — The Biden administration is returning to the Pentagon more than $17 billion diverted by the Trump administration to build the wall at the southwestern border, and plans to cancel all related construction contracts, an administration official told ABC News on Friday.
Amid its ongoing review to determine the fate of Trump’s border wall, the Biden administration also said it would launch two new projects along the 1,900-mile U.S.-Mexico border: one to fill holes in the Rio Grande Valley levee system left by the wall construction project, and another to address soil erosion in a 14-mile stretch of barrier construction by the Trump administration near San Diego, California.
Neither project would involve building new border fencing, the administration official told ABC News. It’s not yet clear when the Biden administration will complete its review of the overall Trump-era project.
“As Federal agencies continue to review the problems created by the prior Administration’s border wall construction and develop their plans, today they will start taking initial steps consistent with the President’s Proclamation to reaffirm our commitment to the military and protect border communities,” the official said in a statement.
Lawmakers from both parties, including Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rep. Vincente Gonzalez, D-Texas, have called on the Biden administration to address the gaps left in the federal levee system in southern Texas ahead of hurricane season, to help prevent flooding. Angry local officials threatened to plug the gaps themselves and seek reimbursement from the federal government down the line.
The Defense Department will use the reclaimed military funds — seized by the Trump administration in several tranches after Democrats refused to back Trump’s calls for additional money for wall construction – for the hundreds of domestic and overseas projects originally approved by Congress, including military schools and warehouses.
President Joe Biden is still facing pressure from local border communities and both parties to announce his plans for Trump’s signature project. Republicans have called on him to complete the wall amid the ongoing surge in migrants seeking to cross into the United States.
Democrats want the president to keep his campaign trail promise to unwind the project and return confiscated border land to property owners.
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