Border wall construction forging ahead with Biden months away from taking office

Border Report

South Texas congressmen say Biden administration should use federal law to terminate contracts

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Border wall construction continued at full tilt Tuesday in South Texas, three days after former Vice President Joe Biden won the presidential election.

Biden has said he would “not build one more inch of border wall,” but he won’t take office until Jan. 20. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has refused to concede the election and is challenging vote results in several court cases.

Officials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees billions of dollars worth of government border wall contracts along the Southwest, confirmed to Border Report in an emailed statement that construction of the border wall infrastructure system will continue on projects that are already funded.

“CBP continues with the construction of new border wall system with funding that has been received through Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. The majority of contracts have been awarded and construction is well under way for the approximately 738 miles funded to date. Since the U.S. Border Patrol began constructing border barriers nearly 30 years ago, these barriers have proved to be a critical component in gaining operational control of the border and allowing for greater efficiency of manpower,” the CBP statement read.

There is, however, a provision in the federal law that allows for the termination of government contracts, and for companies to file for a settlement claim. The Federal Acquisition Regulation Part 49 provides for the government to be relieved of contracts and says “when possible, the TCO (terminating contract officer) should negotiate a fair and prompt settlement with the contractor.”

Billions of dollars worth of border wall contract have been awarded by the Trump administration. The contracts are deemed to be of national security interest and media is not privy to review the details.

Two South Texas congressmen, however, tell Border Report that they both believe this federal law should be applied once Biden takes office.

U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar and Vicente Gonzalez, both Democrats who represent South Texas, said they advocate for the usage of this federal law.

“I think it will require the administration to apply this measure and Biden isn’t sworn in yet,” Gonzalez said.

Cuellar, who is vice chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, which oversees funding for border wall and Department of Homeland Security activities, also told Border report that contracts should be revoked “once Biden is sworn in.”

Cuellar also said he was hopeful that the Biden administration will make public details of the contracts to the media.

Construction workers operate heavy machinery on a border wall being built near Doffin Road, south of the town of Pharr, Texas, on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020. Although Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden has been declared president-elect, border wall construction will continue on funded projects under President Donald Trump, CBP told Border Report. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)

On Tuesday, construction crews in hard hats, and reflective neon yellow vests operated back hoes and manually worked on border wall segments from McAllen to south of San Juan, Texas, at at least three sites visited by Border Report.

Crews are also building near 23rd Street in south McAllen, an area where Mayor Jim Darling doubts the structure will be effective because it is set back so far from the Rio Grande, he tells Borer Report.

“That’ll be interesting to see what will happen on that. I never understood why you would have a border wall at the levee when it’s 1.5 miles to two miles set back from the river. It didn’t make much sense to me,” Darling said Monday. “I never understood that.”

Darling said post-election, he hopes border wall construction stops but that resources are still appropriately allocated for Border Patrol needs in order to stop illegal immigration.

“Hopefully, we’ll support our Border Patrol people and what they need instead of what’s of political expediency,” he said.

Above: A 2.5-mile stretch of border wall infrastructure, including flood lights, infrared cameras and sensors and all-weather road, is being built near 23rd Street in south McAllen, Texas, as seen on Oct. 29, 2020. Below: Work continued on Nov. 10, 2020. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report photos)

The 23rd Street border wall is the location where Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf visited on Oct. 29 along with CBP Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan to mark the 400th new border wall mile built by the Trump administration.

Their visit came five days before the election and Wolf told media at the event that the Trump administration had “inherited a broken and outdated immigration system. The system did not fully provide the men and women of DHS and CBP the resources and tools they require, and it incentivized the smuggling and trafficking of illegal aliens into the country where they were released into the interior and absconded without consequences.”

DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf speaks to reporters on Oct. 29, 2020, under the newly constructed 23rd Street border wall in south McAllen, Texas. (Border Report Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

At another construction site on Tuesday near Doffin Canal Road, a couple of miles east of the Eli Jackson Historical Cemetery, south of the town of Pharr, Texas, crews worked with cranes in the mid-80-degree temperatures under the South Texas sun.

The border wall in this part of Hidalgo County follows the dirt levee constructed in the 1940s by the International Boundary and Water Commission for flood control of the Rio Grande. Some of the existing border wall was built after 2007 under the Secure Fence Act during the Obama administration. The Trump administration has secured funding to fill in the gaps in between border wall, and to add 30-foot-tall flood lighting, an all-weather road, underground sensors and infrared cameras as part of the infrastructure system.

The photos above were taken at three different construction sites in South Texas on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)

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