Sen. Mitt Romney and other Republicans in the Senate are pressuring the Biden administration to resume building the southern border wall as a new crisis looms this week with the impending expiration of Title 42.
The letter written to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas claims the Biden Administration has ignored the border crisis and is only now realizing that the impending repeal of Title 42 authorities and the predicted increase in border crossings will have catastrophic effects on national security.
Legislators are demanding additional information on the condition of the border wall in preparation for future congressional action, arguing that the decision to cease border wall construction in early 2021 has considerably exacerbated the severe humanitarian issue brought on by illegal immigration.
Over 450 miles of the wall were constructed during the Trump administration before the Biden administration abruptly halted construction, something Biden had campaigned on. The administration also terminated contracts. Earlier this year, at the North American Leaders Summit in Mexico City, Biden’s opposition to wall construction earned him praise from his Mexican counterpart.
Lopez Obrador said Biden is the first U.S. president in a very long time not to build even one meter of wall. The Mexican president had also thanked Biden for not adding to the wall.
Instead, a DHS official said the department focuses on evidence-based, novel approaches to border security and invests heavily in cutting-edge technology. It has increased processing and staffing resources to maintain systems that handle twice as many individuals. According to the official, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) budget for FY2024 includes $113 million for new hires.
Meanwhile, the government has taken steps to close some gaps, notably in Arizona. In an April Senate hearing, Mayorkas said about 130 projects were approved to address gaps and install gates. DHS claims to have closed 55 gaps and gates, with further closures in the works.
However, the lawmakers are not impressed, stating while sealing small gaps in existing sections of the wall may be better than nothing, the border wall remains incomplete, with no plan for additional construction.
There was a dramatic uptick in border crossings after wall construction ended. According to the legislators, over 2.3 million migrant encounters and approximately 600,000 escapes occurred in FY2022.
As the Title 42 public health order that has allowed for the swift expulsion of migrants at the border owing to the COVID-19 outbreak expires over the next few days, these figures are projected to rise. So far this week, officials have encountered over 10,000 migrants per day.
In the letter, Republicans cited an immigrant’s recent mass shooting in Texas as evidence that the increased risk of violent, unlawful immigrants slipping through the cracks and threatening the safety of communities increases when the border is overburdened and unsecured.
The lawmakers indicated that recent deployments like 1,500 troops to the border might not be necessary if there was a fully constructed wall.
A DHS spokesman assured lawmakers that the agency would continue cooperating with their information requests through proper methods.