DoD to halt border wall construction following executive order

People in El Paso wave through the border wall to their families in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, in this October 2019 photo. Photo by Justin Hamel/UPI
People in El Paso wave through the border wall to their families in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, in this October 2019 photo. Photo by Justin Hamel/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 21 (UPI) -- The Defense Department will stop building a wall along the southern border of the United States as it reviews President Joe Biden's executive order calling for construction to halt, the Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday.

On his first day in office, Biden signed 17 executive orders, many immediately reversing policies set in action by his predecessor, Donald Trump.


They included an order to pause construction on the border wall that was a keystone of Trump's 2016 campaign.

"It shall be the policy of my administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall. I am also directing a careful review of all resources appropriated or redirected to construct a southern border wall," the proclamation reads.

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The order directs the secretaries of defense and homeland security, in consultation with the director of the Office of Management and Budget, to assess the legality of the funding and contracting methods used to build the border wall and to immediately pause the obligation of funds used to construct it.

"Upon receipt of President Biden's proclamation with respect to the southern border of the United States, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has directed our contractors involved in border barrier construction for the Department of Defense program not to install any additional physical barriers," said Corps of Engineers spokeswoman Raini Brunson in a statement to UPI.


"Only construction activity that is necessary to safely prepare each site for a suspension of work will occur over the next few days. As we pause this program, we will work closely with the Department of Defense and Department of the Army to ensure public safety and a responsible use of taxpayer dollars."

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In the final days of his administration, then-President Trump visited the border wall to celebrate the completion of 450 miles of its construction and tout his administration's immigration policies.

Trump's immigration policies -- particularly a zero-tolerance policy that resulted in migrant families being separated from their children -- inspired criticism and protests from human-rights activists as well as lawsuits over trauma stemming from separation.

The border wall project also drew scrutiny and litigation for environmental impacts, for the practice of appropriating Defense Department funding for the wall and for the process by which contracts were awarded.

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The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Trump vs. Sierra Club, which addresses the funding issue, in February.

In April 2020, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., asked the acting inspector general of the Department of Defense to review a $569 million contract modification awarded to Montana-based contractor BFBC, linked to Republican donor Timothy Barnard.


Fisher Sand & Gravel, which has received multiple border wall contracts totaling about $2 billion, has also faced accusations of undue influence and was investigated by the Defense Department's inspector general.

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