Bloomberg Government subscribers get the stories like this first. Act now and gain unlimited access to everything you need to know. Learn more.
The Biden administration will close gaps in U.S.-Mexico border barriers and complete construction on some related infrastructure amid increasing encounters with migrants attempting to cross illegally into the U.S.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Monday directed U.S. Customs and Border Protection to close construction access gaps that were left open when President Joe Biden suspended most work on the wall, a signature immigration policy of the Trump administration, on his first day in office.
The Department of Homeland Security said the work is necessary to address life, safety, and environmental issues, “or other remediation required to protect border communities” while the administration works to terminate various construction contracts for the wall. As the Defense Department scraps contracts, it’s turning over unfinished projects to DHS to do any urgently needed work.
DHS will also finish construction on patrol, maintenance, and access roads and connect power to currently non-functioning gates that allow Border Patrol agents and first responders to access irrigation canals.
Border officials reported record encounters with migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal 2021, and recent monthly updates show numbers starting to tick up again after a dip in the fall.
Republicans, who’ve consistently criticized the Biden administration’s border policies, lauded Monday’s announcement and called for more action.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the top Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a statement he was “pleased to see that they are finally taking some actions to secure our border” and pushed for further policies to curb unlawful migration and drug trafficking.
DHS officials continue to resist calls for a Trump-style approach to border security, which relied heavily on pledges for an uninterrupted wall along the entire border between the U.S. and Mexico.
“The Administration continues to call on Congress to cancel remaining border wall funding and instead fund smarter border security measures that are proven to be more effective at improving safety and security at the border,” DHS said in a press release Monday.
House and Senate Democrats moved to cancel wall funding earlier this year, but the effort stalled when appropriators agreed to a continuing resolution to fund the government until mid-February.
The Biden administration is facing litigation from Republican-led states over its refusal to spend appropriated funds to build the wall.
To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at email@example.com