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Washington Post/ Feuds flare along Trump’s border wall as construction ramps up during his final days in office
President-elect Joe Biden pledged to end construction of his predecessor's signature border wall, but halting the ongoing, multibillion-dollar project will be an arduous, complex and potentially costly process.
His administration will be saddled with lawsuits over wall funding, face questions about maintenance of the barriers built over the last four years and have to contend with private land that had been siphoned for future construction. Around 415 miles of wall construction have been completed, roughly 353 of which is replacing old, dilapidated walls or barriers, as of November 27, according to US Customs and Border Protection. The administration is quickly pressing forward with its stated goal to build 450 miles by the end of this year, with contractors working around the clock.
Biden's promise to halt construction has already prompted discussions among Customs and Border Protection officials about what would occur in that event, particularly if funding is cut, according to a Homeland Security official.
A federal appeals court ruled Friday that a lower court was wrong to bar the Trump administration from taking $3.6 billion from military construction projects for a border wall.
A panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that El Paso County and the nonprofit Border Network for Human Rights did not have the standing to challenge President Donald Trump’s redirecting funds from more than 100 military construction projects, including a $20 million road project at a base located in the city.
The appeals court found that neither the county nor the Border Network proved it was directly harmed by Trump’s move. The court reversed a December 2019 ruling by U.S. District Judge David Briones.
President Trump’s quest to build as much of his border wall as possible before leaving office is newly angering landowners and authorities in the American southwest.
An Arizona rancher said construction crews recently detonated explosives that sent “car-sized boulders” tumbling onto his property. Municipal water officials in El Paso said they deployed dump trucks last week to block wall-builders from cutting off their only road to a vital canal along the Rio Grande. And landowners in Laredo, Tex., are urging elected officials to pressure the incoming Biden administration to make clear that their private property will be safe from construction crews eager to finish the job.
The feuds demonstrate the impact that Trump’s final push to expand his $15 billion border wall is having on a region that has been the focal point of his four-year term, even though President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to stop construction immediately upon taking office. Federal officials say Trump has built 415 miles of new barriers — and that they expect to reach 450 miles by the end of the year while working at breakneck pace — to deter drug traffickers, human smugglers and criminal organizations from attempting to enter the United States. But critics say the wall is a political boondoggle and that the administration is trampling landowners’ rights in the process of building it.
President Donald Trump can redirect $3.6 billion in U.S. military funds to build a wall along the Mexican border because Texas groups that challenged the decision have no legal right to complain, a federal appeals court said.
The ruling late Friday from the appeals court in New Orleans overturns a decision by a judge in El Paso, Texas, who said Trump broke the law by declaring a national emergency to redirect military money to the wall project after Congress specifically refused to pay for it.
A three-judge panel, in a split decision, ruled that El Paso County and a group of border-community activists didn’t prove they’ve been sufficiently harmed by Trump’s wall to challenge the funding shift.
The local community may have lost tourism and economic activity because of Trump’s rhetoric alleging the area is dangerous and crime-ridden because of an “invasion” of undocumented immigrants but that harm can’t be tied directly to the Pentagon’s funding shift, the majority ruled.