Some critics say that Biden hasn’t gone far enough to stop the last administration’s eminent domain claims against local landowners.
The federal Department of Defense has suspended all construction on a planned wall along the U.S.-Mexico Border, following President Joe Biden’s executive order that the project immediately cease.
According to CNN, the Army Corps of Engineers—which routinely provides personnel and direction for construction projects along the border—will suspend operations as it reviews Biden’s order. Raini Brunson, a spokesperson for the agency, said the Corps plans to “take appropriate actions in accordance’ with the president’s latest guidance.
“Only construction activity that is necessary to safely prepare each site for a suspension of work will occur over the next few days,” Brunson said.
Although he has only been in office for several days, Biden began dismantling his predecessor’s legacy within hours of reaching the White House.
Shortly after his inauguration, President Biden signed a barrage of executive orders, dealing with everything from climate change to coronavirus policy and immigration. On the latter topic, Biden has requested a 100-day freeze to immigrant deportations and has also shut down construction of the border wall.
In his executive order, Biden said ending wall construction is among his administration’s initial priorities.
“It shall be the policy of my Administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall,” Biden wrote.
While Biden’s executive order only suspends construction activities along the border, the commander-in-chief has signaled he has no intention to resume once it has stopped. Biden has purportedly made plans to rescind the presidential appropriations directive former President Donald Trump issued to procure money for the project.
As president, Donald Trump had the authority to reroute unspent congressional funds for emergency purposes. To fulfill his longstanding campaign promise of building a “great, beautiful wall” along the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump seized and redirected money from Pentagon programs.
However, Biden may run into some trouble: as The Associated Press observes, the federal government has already signed multi-billion dollar contracts to see the construction through.
While it remains unclear what steps Biden will take, he has directed his administration to—over the course of the next two months—determine how the remaining contracts can be canceled, and to what use he can put the unspent money.
Both CNN and The Associated Press note that much of the U.S.-Mexico border remains undefended, in spite of Trump’s repeated pledge to not only build an impenetrable barrier, but to force Mexico to shoulder the cost.
However, attorneys have complained that, even as Biden has slowed wall construction, the Department of Justice is continuing to pursue eminent domain claims against people whose property would be seized to construct new barriers.
“Biden as a candidate pledged not to build another foot, dismiss lawsuits,” Ricky Garza, a staff attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, told CNN. “That’s what a lot of us were counting on.
“There haven’t been any new lawsuits, but in the 200-plus that exist, there’s been a steady drumbeat that things are moving,” he said. “It’s as if nothing has changed.”
Nevertheless, others are optimistic that change is finally on the way. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) told CNN he’s pleased to see stopping construction on the wall was one of Biden’s first move as president.
“That executive order is very important because it terminates the national emergency declaration that allowed Trump to grab money from other departments,” Cuellar told CNN. “The President definitely has met my expectations and I’m very, very happy about that.”