Biden administration cancels border wall contracts covering a 31-mile section in Texas

In a photo taken on March 28, 2021, ranch owner Tony Sandoval (67) stands before a portion of the unfinished border wall that former US president Donald Trump tried to build, near the southern Texas border city of Roma
In a photo taken on March 28, 2021, ranch owner Tony Sandoval stands before a portion of the unfinished border wall that former US president Donald Trump tried to build, near the southern Texas border city of Roma.

  • The Biden DHS is canceling two border wall contracts in the Laredo sector of the US-Mexico border.
  • After taking office in January, President Biden paused ongoing border wall construction.
  • Biden’s 2022 budget proposal allocates $1.2 billion for border infrastructure, sans wall funding.
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The Biden administration is canceling two border wall contracts in the Laredo sector of the US-Mexico border that span roughly 31 miles, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said on Friday.

Shortly after taking office in January, President Joe Biden paused border wall construction projects that were initiated by former President Donald Trump, calling for “a review of all resources appropriated or redirected to construct” the barrier.

Friday’s announcement comes after the Biden administration last month returned to the military more than $2 billion in funding that the Trump administration had diverted for border wall construction.

The Biden administration’s handling of Trump’s border wall projects has unfolded at a slower pace due to funds having been allocated through different government agencies.

The contracts for the Laredo projects planned for 31 miles of border wall to be built along the Rio Grande, funded with DHS Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations.

However, construction on the projects had not yet started, nor had land acquisition been executed.

Read more: Trouble is brewing for a Georgia county’s criminal investigation into Donald Trump

“DHS continues to review all other paused border barrier projects and is in the process of determining which projects may be necessary to address life, safety, environmental, or other remediation requirements and where to conduct environmental planning,” the DHS release said. “The Administration also continues to call on Congress to cancel remaining border wall funding and instead fund smarter border security measures, like border technology and modernization of land ports of entry, that are proven to be more effective at improving safety and security at the border.”

The Trump administration constructed roughly 450 miles of wall over four years, according to The Associated Press. However, only 52 miles of wall were built in areas where no barrier had previously existed.

The border between the US and Mexico stretches across more than 1,900 miles; some sections already had barriers prior to Trump taking office in 2017.

DHS is utilizing previously-appropriated funds to assess environmental issues that derived from previous wall construction, as well as reviewing land seizure cases to determine if those acquisitions are still necessary.

Biden’s 2022 budget proposal allocates $1.2 billion for border infrastructure, including security technology, but does not set aside funding for additional wall construction.

GOP Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas last month pledged to continue building a wall at the border, though the legality of the move is being called into question.

“Only Congress and the president can fix our broken border,” Abbott said at the time. “But in the meantime, Texas is going to do everything possible, including beginning to make arrests, to keep our community safe.”

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With a backlog of over 1.3 million cases, the 500 immigration judges in the US feel overburdened and pressured to deport

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US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) special agent preparing to arrest alleged immigration violators at Fresh Mark in Salem, Ohio, June 19, 2018.

  • Immigration lawyers are overburdened as they deal with 1.3 million backlogged cases.
  • Many are fighting for the ability to rule independently without political pressure, NBC News.
  • Former AG Bill Barr worked to decertify the union that protected them.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The country’s 500 immigration judges feel overburdened and under pressure to deport as more than 1.3 million cases have been backlogged at the end of the last administration and crossings into the country keep rising, NBC News reported.

While federal trial judges are appointed for life, making it easier to make independent decisions, immigration judges are appointed and answer to the attorney general.

The ability for the judges to rule independently on asylum cases has also been compromised by a move from former Attorney General Bill Barr to decertify the National Association of Immigration Judges.

“We are in the legal fight for our life to ensure that our decisional independence is valued and maintained,” Judge Amiena Khan told NBC.

Sixty Democrats in the House and some on the Senate Judiciary Committee have also called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to recertified the union and allow judges to speak freely about immigration cases, The Hill reported.

As the union fights to be recertified, judges have said they are fighting to be able to make rulings independently.

“We should not be used as a tool of law enforcement,” Judge Dana Leigh Marks told NBC. “That is not how Congress envisioned the immigration courts should play a role in the immigration system.”

In a press release, the American Immigration Lawyers Association said the wait time for the backlogged cases was more than four years, including “cases that require urgent attention, such as those seeking asylum and humanitarian relief.”

Additionally, cases keep rising. In May alone, Customs and Border Protection reported more than 180,000 migrants at the Southern border, the largest number in a month in more than 20 years.

Marks told NBC quotes were imposed to get cases through faster but the measure threatens to ensure every case has due process and doesn’t allow migrants time to find a lawyer. Migrants aren’t given court-appointed lawyers and without a lawyer, they will most likely lose their case.

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Photo shows unaccompanied migrant children crammed in a single playpen at an overcrowded border facility

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Monitored by a caretaker, young unaccompanied migrants, aged from 3 to 9, watch TV inside a playpen at a US Customs and Border Protection facility.

  • A photo shows unaccompanied migrant children housed in a playpen at a border facility.
  • Children aged between 3 and 9 are kept there with mats for sleeping, the AP reported.
  • The facility is overcrowded, and pods around 3,200 square feet had more than 500 children in them.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A photo shows young, unaccompanied migrant children crammed in a playpen at an overcrowded facility at the US-Mexico border.

The single Department of Homeland Security facility in Donna, Texas, that has a capacity of 250 is housing more than 4,000 migrants, including children, the Associated Press reported.

And some pods around 3,200 square feet in size had more than 500 children in them, according to the AP.

One photo shows young children, wearing masks due to the coronavirus pandemic, in a crowded playpen.

According to the AP, the children aged between 3 and 9 are kept apart from everyone else, and are kept in a playpen where they have mats for sleeping. They are the youngest children in that facility’s custody, Oscar Escamilla, acting executive officer of the US Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley, told the AP.

The children in the playpen crossed the US-Mexico border by themselves, Escamilla added.

An increased number of unaccompanied children have been arriving at the US border after policy changes by President Joe Biden’s administration, including measures to reverse controversial Trump-era policies.

The Biden administration says that it doesn’t want to turn unaccompanied children away to dangerous conditions, or to send them to someone in the US who has not been properly vetted – leading to crowded centers at the border.

Human rights groups say that children are being held in “inappropriate” detention centers.

See more photos of the facility hereĀ»

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How JFK customs searches 1 million packages a day for illegal items

Following is a transcription of the video.

Narrator: About 1 million packages arrive at John F. Kennedy International Airport every day. And just like travelers have to go through customs, so do international packages. The US Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, is tasked with screening all of them. They’re looking for anything that isn’t legally allowed in the US; certain foods, animals, drugs, and counterfeit goods.

JFK is one of nine international mail facilities in the US. It’s essentially the country’s biggest mail room, dealing with roughly 60% of all international packages entering the country.

First, the packages are taken off arriving passenger or cargo planes and transported to the US Postal Service’s mail room on site. They’re sorted and then taken to the CBP mail facility next door for inspection. CBP uses a three-tiered strategy to efficiently search each of these packages; intelligence gathering, nonintrusive inspection, and hand inspection. We followed two units searching for drugs and counterfeit items.

Before a package ever lands in the US, CBP gathers intelligence on the sender, the container, and the aircraft. They’ll check with law-enforcement partners like Homeland Security, the DEA, and the FBI to see if there’s anything of interest. This is how CBP narrows down a million packages to ones that will get flagged for further inspection.

Once a suspicious package is pulled, it goes to the CBP inspection area. This is where human CBP officers get a little help. Here, a four-legged officer, like Alex, will search hundreds of packages in 20-minute runs. These dogs are trained to sniff out seven different drugs.

Michael Lake: The drugs that they are trained for are hash, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, ecstasy, as well as fentanyl.

Narrator: If Alex finds something, he’ll notify his handler by sitting or lying down. If he’s right, he gets his chew toy.

Lake: This is the game that they work for. All right, it’s good play. Here’s a good boy, good boy.

Narrator: And if Alex or one of his furry friends comes in contact with a drug, officers have the antidote Narcan on hand. Nearby, CBP officers are using another nonintrusive search tool: X-rays.

Nathanial Needham: When I first started this, I would literally open up everything ’cause I couldn’t tell what the image was. But eventually, after you do thousands of parcels, opening them up and comparing them to image, now you start getting good. You can identify, oh, that’s this, oh, that’s this. We can let that go because of this.

Narrator: If they see something on an X-ray monitor that looks suspicious, officers will isolate the package.

Needham: Can we pull that one, actually?

Narrator: Isolated packages go through an intrusive search. Officers will cut them open to hand-search for drugs or counterfeit goods.

Needham: I always got taught, basically, expect a package to be something that’s going to your mom, so that if it is good, it’s coming back to your mom the same way that it’s supposed to be.

This is common. It’s, like, from back home. It’s pills, certain kind of vitamins, and they get them from their little pharmacy. I’m pretty sure that this right here is actually a steroid.

Producer: Is that allowed?

Needham: No. The worst part is you don’t know what’s in these capsules.

Narrator: If the officer finds drugs, the package is sent to Murielle.

Murielle Lodvil: That’s 4,000-plus pills here.

Narrator: But if he finds a counterfeit good, it’s sent to Steve. We’ll start with Murielle.

Lodvil: The strangest areas that we find drugs concealed are radio speakers or even car bumpers. For some reason, they love to place cocaine in car bumpers. It’s crazy, where we even find drugs in Play-Dohs. Also books, children books. In between the lining of the pages, you’ll find drugs there.

Narrator: Murielle tests the drugs with a spectrometer called a Gemini. Using lasers, the machine can pierce through packaging and tell what drug is inside.

Lodvil: Right now, I’m gonna test this particular package. It’s telling me that it’s ketamine. It’s used for horse tranquilizer and also painkillers.

Narrator: Murielle will label the drugs based on where they fall among the DEA’s drug schedules, Schedule V being a drug with the lowest potential for abuse or dependence, like Robitussin, and Schedule I being a drug with the highest potential for abuse, like ecstasy.

Lodvil: We have the GBL coming from the Netherlands, and someone in New York is receiving it. Steroid, a Schedule III, coming from Hong Kong. Then we have the carisoprodol coming from India. And then we have the tramadol coming from Singapore.

Narrator: Any scheduled drugs will be seized.

Lodvil: There is no day that we come to work that we don’t find anything. Every day is a sense of importance because of the fact that we taking out those particular drugs from the street.

Narrator: The narcotics unit had over 7,600 seizures in 2018, including 246 pounds of cocaine and over 360 pounds of ecstasy.

Now, back to Steve. He’s the one that gets all the counterfeit goods. That’s anything that infringes on a company’s intellectual property rights, or IPR. Think fake Air Jordans, Gucci purses, or Rolex watches. Companies like Louis Vuitton and Gucci train Steve on the telltale signs for spotting a fake. While most of the tips are kept top secret to protect the brand, there are a few things that Steve could share with us.

Steve Nethersole: The first, when it comes in, is the country of origin. These high-end manufacturers here, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, they’re coming from France, Italy, Spain. The watch is coming from Switzerland. When it’s coming from China, bing, that’s your No. 1 red flag. Then you look at the dilapidated boxes, so that’s two red flags there. A third thing is commingling. The high-end manufacturers never commingle their products, like, in other words, a Gucci inside a Fendi or a Louis Vuitton. These people will stuff watches, a wallet, inside a handbag. And so, they’ll never commingle their products. They are so precise.

Some of the things I could say, like, some of the manufacturers, they don’t put any of this in it, the filler, inside it. They would never do that. We’ll look at the smell. Sometimes it smells like petroleum. It’s not real leather. We look at the stitching. We look at the symmetry of the logos by the manufacturer, the zippers. This one here is a Coach bag with a Michael Kors zipper. This coat has “Burbelly” on the buttons instead of Burberry, so these are the comical things that we find when you look at it up close, and you could pick it right out.

Narrator: Counterfeit goods make up an estimated trillion-dollar industry that’s even been linked to terrorist groups around the world. In 2018, CBP had over 1,800 IPR seizures. And if all those counterfeit goods had gone on to sell at their suggested retail price, they’d total an estimated $54 million. So, where do all these seized goods end up anyway?

Well, most of the narcotics and counterfeit goods will be sent to a top-secret incinerator to be destroyed. Some of the drugs will go under further testing, while some of the counterfeit goods may be donated if the offended company allows it. But, in some cases, if the illegal goods are part of a greater investigation, CBP officers will actually put that package back in the mail. Then, they’ll track it all the way to the person it was sent to. This is known as a “controlled shipment.”

Lodvil: I’m the one who opened that package, and now I’m involved in this controlled delivery. Now I get to finish the story. All right, now we go out. We knocked on your door, you open. Hello, we noticed that you’ve ordered, you know, this particular package. It’s MDMA. What’s the story behind it? So then, we listen.

Narrator: But whether they’re up against fake Guccis or dangerous amounts of fentanyl, CBP stands guard at the country’s busiest mail facility.

Lake: This is where it comes. You don’t see it all the time coming across the border in trucks and big bundles, like the TV will have you see. This is where it’s all coming from, and it hits the street and it destroys lives. So, in our way, if we can stop it here, it’s one less tragic story, probably, that we’re gonna have to hear about.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in September 2019.

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Biden wants to send migrants to the northern US border amid effort to wrangle those arriving at the southern 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.

  • US Customs and Border Patrol wants to fly migrants to processing sites up north.
  • There’s been an influx of migrants arriving at the southern US border, with a lag in processing.
  • The Biden administration has already sent FEMA there to assist.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden’s administration is looking to fly migrants arriving at the US southern border to processing facilities in northern and coastal states, as the US deals with an influx of people seeking shelter in the US, The Washington Post reported.

The Post spoke to two Department of Homeland Security officials and reviewed an email that showed US Customs and Border Protection requesting planes to transport migrants as 1,000 people including unaccompanied minors crossed the Rio Grande on Friday morning.

It’s not clear which states they want to send the migrants to, but The Post reported many northern states do not have the capacity to process that many people.

There are an additional 1,000 people who could not be processed since last night, The Post said.

Biden’s administration has already mobilized Federal Emergency Management Agency to help handle the influx at the border, which recent CBP data suggests is similar to the surge of migration in 2019 when hundreds of thousands of migrant families sought asylum.

Former President Donald Trump’s administration also transported migrants from the southern border to facilities that had space to hold them in other parts of the country, The Post reported.

Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the US is on pace to see more people at the US-Mexico border “than we have in the last 20 years.”

This comes as the Biden administration faces criticism for the continued severe overcrowding at migrant holding facilities, a relic of the Trump administration, that Biden promised to undo.

One New York Times report found over 1,360 migrant children were held for longer than the mandatory 72-hour limit permitted by US law.

Earlier this week, CBS News also reported there are over 4,000 minors being held, with thousands of them being held in jail-like facilities meant for adults for extended periods of time.

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