Feb. 12 (UPI) — President Joe Biden on Thursday officially ended a national emergency declaration at the United States’ southern border that allowed former President Donald Trump two years ago to divert federal funds to build his border wall.
Biden said in a letter to Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that Trump’s invocation of the National Emergencies Act to get border wall funding was “unwarranted.”
“I have also announced that it shall be the policy of my administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall, and that I am directing a careful review of all resources appropriated or redirected to that end,” Biden said in the letter.
Last month, Biden had signed an executive order stopping the construction of the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The departments of Defense and Homeland Security followed through by ending the work.
Republicans in Congress responded by asking the Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for all communications related to Biden’s Jan. 20 executive order.
“This potentially dangerous action not only harms our national security and thwarts the will of Congress, but also leaves American citizens living near the southwest border vulnerable to activities involving cartels and smugglers,” said a Feb. 4 letter sent by Rep. James Comer, R-Tenn., the ranking member on the House oversight committee.
The American Civil Liberties Union said it welcomed the end of the emergency declaration, but said “it’s far from enough.”
“We now need bold action from the Biden administration to defend border communities and tear down this wall,” the organization said Thursday.
The border wall was one of the hallmarks of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, saying at the time that Mexico would pay for building the structure, but that never came to pass. The Trump administration began fresh construction of the border wall after he took office in 2017.
Under Trump’s emergency declaration in February 2019, he was able to divert $600 million from the Treasury Department and $6.1 billion from the Defense Department to the Department of Homeland Security for border wall construction.
Overall, the Trump administration built approximately 450 miles of the wall — most of which was the reinforcement or replacement of existing barriers — along the 1,954-mile southern border.