Thousands of tons of steel and heavy equipment stand idle along the country’s southern border as legions of migrants exploit holes in the fence left by President Biden’s decision to halt construction.
From Texas to California, unfinished sections of the wall have become convenient gateways for migrants to enter the U.S. Near the gaps, Border agents park their vehicles to monitor the access points.
Smugglers send groups of asylum seekers through the gaps to overwhelm the agents. When agents leave to intercept or apprehend one group, another group scampers across.
“It’s insane,” said an agent attending to a group of 13 Brazilian migrants apprehended Tuesday near a 100-foot gap in the fence in Otay Mesa, Ca. “The project is ¾ done. At least, they should be allowed to tie together the primary fence. Otherwise, we’re trying to catch these people in the worst possible place. It’s just sucking our manpower.”
Biden issued his stop work order days after entering office in January. He gave Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas 60 days to report back – either continue, modify or terminate the contracts. So far Mayorkas is a week past his deadline.
Meanwhile, the tab footed by taxpayers keeps running up. No work is getting done and experts say canceling those valid contracts – while legal – costs a million dollars a month and the government could end up paying more to cancel the contracts than complete them.
“The contractor hasn’t stopped receiving money, even though they’re not working for two months. The contractors are being paid because they have resources, workers, equipment, materials that can’t be redeployed because they’re still on contract to build a project,” said Associated General Contractors of America’s Brian Turnmail.
“The government is paying contractors up to a million dollars a month to be on standby. That’s going to the total cost. So, if the government takes a long time to resolve the dispute, that will cost taxpayers more.”
President Trump built 455 miles of new border wall. President Biden has enough cash left – about $3 billion – to finish another 200 miles. According to the Army Corp of Engineers about 39 fence projects across the border stand idle. Biden voted to build 700 miles of border protection in 2006. Today he calls them useless, inhumane, and unnecessary.
Critics also say the fence is harmful to wildlife and the environment and are urging the president to use the excess cash to restore habitat.
“It’s a good thing that the construction crews are not at work right now. It’s a good thing that the bulldozers aren’t destroying the borderlands today as we speak. But we can’t breathe a sigh of relief until these construction contracts are canceled for good,” says Laiken Jordahl with the Center for Biological Diversity.
“We need to not just stop building the border wall, but actually begin restoring the land, healing the wilderness areas that have been destroyed by wall construction.”
Agents say it’s not just the wall that faces cancellation. Trump ordered a border wall ‘system’ which includes cameras, lights and underground sensors – which provide agents with “situational” awareness of the border environment. Those amenities are the last to go in, meaning taxpayers already paid for many miles of fence and materials they may never receive.