The Biden administration missed its own deadline for working out what to do with Trump’s half-finished border wall

Trump border wall John darwin kurc
Border wall fencing mid-construction on January 20 2021, when Biden halted construction.

  • The Biden administration missed a March 20 deadline to come up with a plan for Trump’s border wall.
  • Officials have yet to pick whether to cancel or alter the multi-billion-dollar construction contracts.
  • A plan will come “soon,” said a statement to Insider.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden’s administration has blown through a 60-day deadline by which it said it would figure out a plan for former President Donald Trump’s border wall.

Biden signed a proclamation on January 20, his first day in office, ordering work to stop within seven days. From that point onwards, almost all border wall construction has been on pause.

The pause provided 60 days for the administration to come up with a plan for repurposing the multi-billion-dollar contracts signed by Trump officials with various construction companies.

The 60 days was also meant to be enough time to find legal ways for border wall funding to be redirected to other projects.

The 60th day was Saturday March 20, which passed with no plan. Officials told Insider than they would figure it out “soon,” citing ongoing legal cases as a possible cause for the delay.

A spokesperson for the Office of Management and Budget – one of the agencies overseeing the project – said in a statement:

“When the Administration took office, funds had been diverted from military construction and other appropriated purposes toward building the wall, and wall construction was being challenged in multiple lawsuits by plaintiffs who alleged that the construction was creating serious environmental and safety issues.

“Under those circumstances, Federal agencies are continuing to develop a plan to submit to the President soon.”

The spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for a more specific timeline.

As the 60-day deadline ticked down last week, Insider spoke to policy experts about what could be expected once the time was up.

David J. Bier, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute, correctly predicted that the deadline would likely be extended.

Citing his conversations with administration officials, he said that the wall was simply not the focus while the Biden administration faces a major surge in border crossings.

“No one is saying anything about the border wall being some kind of solution to what’s happening,” Bier told Insider at the time. “No one is thinking ‘if only we finished the fence.’ Everyone is focused on: ‘How do we deal with the people who we process?'”

A surge at the border

On Sunday, Department of Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas faced questions about the thousands of unaccompanied minors attempting to enter the US.

According to The Washington Post, there are now 5,000 children in CBP care and 10,000 in the hands of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Mayorkas told CNN’s State of the Union that DHS is “working around the clock” to move children out of facilities.

He blamed the Trump administration for dismantling much of the infrastructure for humane processing.

As Susan Rice, Biden’s domestic policy adviser put it to The Post, “We’re basically having to build the plane as we’re flying.”

It’s not clear whether gaps or weaknesses in the incomplete border wall have contributed to the surge. Some people near the border have said that work under Trump did not make the border more secure, and has at times been counterproductive.

Laiken Jordahl, a campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity, has called for the complete restoration of formerly protected borderlands ruined by wall construction.

He told Insider last week that people smuggling can be facilitated by access roads cut by construction companies, a legacy of the wall’s construction.

“Whether or not the wall is built is largely irrelevant as we continually see people vault over the wall in a matter of seconds,” he told Insider last week.

And it appears that the border wall – whether it will eventually be left untended, completed, or torn down – will remain in limbo for the foreseeable future.

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DHS secretary says the Biden administration is ‘working on providing footage’ of migrant facilities amid calls to allow press inside

Alejandro Mayorkas
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House on March 1, 2021.

  • DHS Alejandro Mayorkas said the agency will release “footage” of migrant facilities.
  • The Biden administration has been criticized for its refusal to allow members of the press inside the facilities.
  • Mayorkas blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for authorities’ refusal to allow the press inside.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Department of Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Sunday the Biden administration would release video “footage” of the conditions of the inside of migrant detention facilities to assuage concerns amid its continued refusal to allow members of the press inside.

“Let’s not forget that we’re in the midst of a pandemic and we are focused on our operations, executing our operations in a crowded border patrol facility where hundreds of vulnerable migrant children are located,” Mayorkas said.

He made the comments during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday” when asked about the repeated calls to let members of the press tour the facilities along the southern border where the DHS is housing child migrants upon their entry into the US.

“We’re working on providing footage so the American public can see the border patrol stations, and I would encourage you and other reporters to see the facilities under the control of the Health and Human Services Department where those children are sheltered, and where they belong, and where we are moving them as quickly as possible,” he said.

By law, unaccompanied children are supposed to be removed from the custody of CBP within 72 hours and transferred to a facility operated by the Department of Health and Human Services.

When “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace pressed Mayorkas on his claim that COVID-19 was preventing press access to these facilities, Mayorkas said DHS was “working on providing access so that individuals will be able to see what the conditions in a border control station look like.”

Mayorkas told NBC News’ Chuck Todd during an appearance on “Meet the Press” that the agency was “not focused on ride-alongs right now.”

Read more: Biden’s hidin’ from the press because that strategy’s been working for him

A bipartisan pair of senators on Saturday called on the Biden administration to allow the press to access facilities where the US is detaining child migrants, The Washington Post reported. Senators who visited the facilities Friday described crowded conditions and children being detained longer than is legally allowed, according to the report.

The senators’ comments followed their trip to the southern border with Moyoraks to visit a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facility in El Paso, Texas, according to The Hill. The Department of Homeland Security did not allow members of the press to accompany Mayorkas and the senators on the facility visit, citing COVID-19 concerns.

Mayorkas also said on Sunday that the US border was “secure” and “closed” amid growing concerns over the number of migrants unlawfully entering the US. Mayorkas told “Meet the Press” adult migrants and migrants traveling as families were being sent back to their home countries upon entry but said “vulnerable” child migrants would not be deported.

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Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says the ‘border is closed’ but the US ‘will not expel young, vulnerable children’

Alejandro Mayorkas
Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas speaks speaks at a White House press briefing on March 1, 2021.

  • Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Sunday said that “the border in closed.”
  • Mayorkas said that the US would not send back “vulnerable children” who have arrived at the border.
  • The wave of migrants presents a major challenge for President Joe Biden’s young administration.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Sunday said “the border is closed” in response to the surge in migrants at the US-Mexico border, while staunchly defending the Biden administration’s policy of not expelling young arrivals.

During an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mayorkas said that while the US was sending back families and adults who have attempted to cross into the country, it would not follow the same practice for “young, vulnerable children.”

Mayorkas said the administration was seeking new policies to address the influx of migrants from Mexico and Central American countries. He also criticized former President Donald Trump for having “dismantled the orderly, humane and efficient way” of approaching cases with young children.

“We have a short-term plan, a medium-term plan, and a long-term plan, and the president and I have spoken to this repeatedly,” he said. “We will not expel into the Mexican desert, for example, three orphaned children whom I saw over the last two weeks. We just won’t do that. That’s not who we are.”

While the southern border has long been a source of illegal entry into the US, the wave of migrants presents a major challenge for President Joe Biden’s young administration.

Read more: Meet the presidential confidants, Delaware’s closely-knit and well-positioned congressional delegation, Joe Biden’s entrusted with cementing his legacy

US border authorities apprehended over 100,000 migrants in February, marking a month-to-month increase of 28% from January, according to US Customs and Border Protection.

Biden’s commitment to a humane approach to immigration has been criticized by congressional Republicans, and progressive lawmakers like Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York have complained about the administration reopening a notorious Trump-era Texas facility to house young migrants.

Mayorkas was also pressed about media access to border facilities, which he said the administration was “working on,” but emphasized that border authorities were “not focused on ride-alongs right now.”

“We are still in the midst of the pandemic,” he said. “Border Patrol agents are focused on operations, on securing the border, on addressing the needs of vulnerable children.”

He added: “We are focused on our operations, in removing children from those crowded Border Patrol stations to the Health and Human Services facilities that can best shelter them. And we are also working on providing access so the American public can in a safe way, without jeopardizing our operations, see what is going on.”

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The Biden administration is mobilizing FEMA amid record numbers of migrant children and teens at the border

us-mexico border migrant children
Central American asylum seekers arrive to a bus station after being released by U.S. Border Patrol agents on February 26, 2021 in Brownsville, Texas.

  • The Biden administration mobilized FEMA for 90 days to assist with migrant children at the border.
  • Record numbers of unaccompanied minor children have recently arrived at the US-Mexico border.
  • The children have reportedly been suffering overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Biden administration on Saturday evening mobilized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to respond to a major influx of migrant children arriving at the US-Mexico border.

The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that FEMA will be assisting in “a government-wide effort over the next 90 days to safely receive, shelter, and transfer unaccompanied children who make the dangerous journey to the US southwest border.”

Data from the Customs and Border Protection agency show a skyrocketing rate of apprehensions at the US-Mexico border in recent months, similar to the numbers in 2019 when hundreds of thousands of migrant families journeyed to the US from Central America, seeking asylum.

In February, CBP recorded a whopping 100,441 apprehensions at the border, most of them either unaccompanied minors or members of families that had traveled together.

The numbers of migrants arriving in the US vastly outstrip CBP’s resources – particularly when it comes to detaining and processing children. Typically, unaccompanied children at the border are first processed by CBP officials, then sent to shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services, which places the children with relatives or other sponsors while their immigration cases are processed through the court system.

But both CBP and HHS are struggling to make space for the children. One recent New York Times report revealed that under the Biden administration, border officials had detained more than 1,360 migrant children longer than the mandatory 72-hour limit permitted by US law.

migrant children us-mexico border
Central American asylum seekers arrive to a bus station while being released by U.S. Border Patrol agents on February 26, 2021 in Brownsville, Texas.

President Joe Biden has vowed to set a new tone with his immigration agenda and rid the federal government of the Trump administration’s “cruel and senseless policies” toward migrant children. But already, a number of reports have documented similar instances of severe overcrowding, and unsanitary and inhumane conditions.

Several nonprofit lawyers who visited a Border Patrol tent facility in Texas found children packed together and sleeping on the floor due to the lack of mats. The lawyers said some children had to wait five or more days for a shower, often without any soap available.

Their observations echoed similar reports during the Trump era, in which migrant children endured inedible food, undrinkable water, open toilets, exposure to illnesses, and no soap, toothbrushes, or showers to clean themselves. Some were detained in tents, others in freezing cold Border Patrol facilities, and others still in open-air enclosures in parking lots. Several children even died in Border Patrol custody.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas noted in a statement on Saturday that “a Border Patrol facility is no place for a child.”

He continued: “We are working in partnership with [the Department of Health and Human Services] to address the needs of unaccompanied children, which is made only more difficult given the protocols and restrictions required to protect the public health and the health of the children themselves.”

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