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Biden Admin to Grant Funds for Environmental Protection in Trump Border Wall Case

Biden Admin to Grant Funds for Environmental Protection in Trump Border Wall Case

The US-Mexico Border Wall is seen from a shopping center in San Ysidro, Calif., on May 28, 2019. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Naveen Athrappully

Naveen Athrappully

7/18/2023

Updated: 7/25/2023

The Biden administration has agreed to settle lawsuits related to former President Donald Trump’s construction of the border wall and will fund environmental protection measures to compensate for the alleged harm to nature caused by such construction activities.
A coalition of 18 states, led by California, sued the Trump administration in 2019 and 2020, alleging that the government was illegally diverting taxpayer funds that were authorized for other purposes to build a wall at the U.S. border in four states—Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Two nonprofit organizations, the Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition, had also filed complaints. The lawsuits followed a national emergency declaration by Mr. Trump in 2019 at the U.S.–Mexico border that was used as justification to divert billions of dollars to build the wall.
On July 17, the Biden administration agreed to a settlement on the four federal lawsuits, promising to stop building barriers at the border using diverted funds as well as remediate the alleged environmental harm caused by border wall construction during the prior administration.
According to the settlement, the administration will provide funds that will be used for environmental protection and military construction projects.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will provide $1.1 million to programs that monitor endangered species such as the peninsular bighorn, Mexican gray wolf, jaguar, and ocelot. It'll also install small and large wildlife passages in the border barrier system for animals.
DHS will offer $25 million to California that can either be used to (a) aid an environmental nonprofit’s purchase of 1,200 acres of environmentally sensitive parcels of land located near the U.S.–Mexico border or (b) fund environmental mitigation projects.
More than $427 million in funding will be provided for military construction projects in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The Lawsuits

In 2019, when the lawsuits were filed against Mr. Trump’s diversion of funds to build the wall, the district and appellate courts ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. When the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, it ruled that wall construction activities could proceed as long as the litigation was pending.
In 2021, President Joe Biden ended Mr. Trump’s emergency declaration (pdf) at the border on his first day in office, calling the construction of a wall spanning the entire southern border “a waste of money.”
Following the end of the emergency declaration, the U.S. Supreme Court sent the lawsuits back to a federal court in California. The plaintiffs then negotiated with the Biden administration, which led to the settlement.
“The Trump Border Wall is officially a relic of the past, which is where it belongs,” Attorney General Rob Bonta said, according to a July 17 statement.
“Today’s settlement ushers in a new beginning. I am grateful to the Biden Administration for working with us in good faith and making this announcement possible.”

Border Wall, Deterring Illegal Immigrants

During the four-year Trump presidency, 458 miles of new primary and secondary border walls were constructed as of January 2021, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
With work on the wall halted by the Biden administration, large quantities of construction materials were left unused. In an interview with Fox News in March, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said the Biden administration was spending about $130,000 per day “to do nothing” with the unused border materials.
In April, House Republicans on the Homeland Security Committee introduced a bill called the “Border Reinforcement Act,” which would require Mr. Biden to resume construction of the wall in the U.S.–Mexico border. Halting the border wall construction is estimated to have cost America at least $72 million.
The legislation would also require that the DHS provide monthly reports on illegal encounters. Republicans have been accusing the agency of hiding such data from the public.
In an interview with NewsNation host Chris Cuomo last month, Raul Ortiz, a former chief of the U.S. Border Patrol who retired on June 30, said there’s a “need to continue to build some wall” in certain regions.
Mr. Ortiz also asked that more personnel be deployed at the border for patrol and that there be some rough action to deter illegal immigrants.
“We have migration from a slew of 173 different countries so far, and if our State Department and our partners aren’t working to instill some consequences for some of these demographics, we’re not going to be able to repatriate them. And they’re going to continue to come,” he said.
A thousand migrants recently joined together into a group as they attempt to get into the United States across the southern border. The group, including men, women, and children, reportedly consists of mostly citizens from Venezuela.
However, a large number of foreign nationals including Russians and Chinese have also joined the waves of people illegally crossing into the country, according to CBP.
According to information cited by the lawmakers, in 2021, CBP reported just 4,103 encounters of Russian citizens along our Southwest border. However, that number jumped to 21,763 in fiscal year 2022 and it’s above 33,000 for the first seven months of fiscal year 2023.
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Naveen Athrappully

Naveen Athrappully

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Naveen Athrappully is a news reporter covering business and world events at The Epoch Times.

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