President Biden has rescinded the emergency order used by former President Trump to justify construction of the border wall, the White House announced Thursday.
“I have determined that the declaration of a national emergency at our southern border was unwarranted,” Biden wrote in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
“I have also announced that it shall be the policy of my administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall, and that I am directing a careful review of all resources appropriated or redirected to that end.”
The proclamation is a final step from Biden after issuing an executive order on day one questioning the validity of Trump’s national emergency and ordering a pause on all border wall construction.
Trump issued the national emergency at the border in early 2019 after repeatedly butting heads with lawmakers over funding for the project. The emergency declaration loosened the limits on taxpayer funding, paving the way for Trump to divert funds originally intended for other agencies.
But the move landed his administration in court, as environmental groups and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) challenged $2.5 billion in Department of Defense spending that had been diverted to complete construction.
Trump first floated the idea of a border wall on the campaign trail, repeatedly insisting that Mexico would pay for its construction. But in early 2020, Customs and Border Protection reported it had found $11 billion in funding for the wall.
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The letter was welcome news to members of Congress long opposed to the wall who argued a physical barrier would do little to address immigration or security concerns.
“Trump’s national emergency was never about security,” Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D), who represents a district covering more than half of Arizona’s border with Mexico, wrote on Twitter.
“It was about stealing money to fund a monument to his racist policies along the Southern Border. Now we must cancel the contracts & ensure that not another foot of border wall is constructed.”
Biden’s proclamation comes after the administration asked the Supreme Court to cancel an upcoming hearing on the legality of the border wall, which the court then granted.
“The President has directed the Executive Branch to undertake an assessment of ‘the legality of the funding and contracting methods used to construct the wall,’ ” the administration wrote to the court earlier this month.
The move leaves Biden caught in the middle between Republicans who want to continue construction and litigants who not only want to stop construction but to tear down the portions of the wall that have already been built.
“Ending Trump’s sham emergency declaration is a good start, but just hitting the brakes isn’t enough. Trump’s wall devastated border communities, the environment, and tribal sites. It’s time for the Biden administration to step up for border communities, and commit to mitigating environmental damage and tearing down the wall,” Dror Ladin, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project,
Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee earlier this month asked newly confirmed Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to turn over all documents related to Biden’s decision to pause construction.
“This potentially dangerous action not only harms our national security and thwarts the will of Congress, but also leaves American citizens living near the southwest border vulnerable to activities involving cartels and smugglers,” the committee’s minority members wrote in a letter spearheaded by ranking member James Comer (R-Ky.).