Biden is thinking about building that wall — and that’s a good thing
When Congress wouldn’t give former President Donald Trump the funds he needed to construct more walls on the southern border, he issued a proclamation declaring that the situation at the southern border presented a border security crisis that threatened core national security interests and therefore constituted a national emergency. This permitted him to use military construction funds pursuant to section 2808 of the United States Code.
On Jan. 20, 2021, President Joe Biden issued a proclamation terminating Trump’s declaration and stopping the border wall construction it had funded. Biden’s proclamation says, it “shall be the policy of my administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall.”
Although this may have seemed appropriate in January, the situation at the border has gotten much worse since then.
According to Biden, every nation has a right and a duty to secure its borders and protect its people against threats, but building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border is a waste of money that diverts attention from genuine threats.
This is a straw man argument. Trump wasn’t trying to erect a wall along the entire span of the southern border when he issued his proclamation.
Trump explained several years before he issued it that, “It’s a 2,000-mile border, but you don’t need 2,000 miles of wall because you have a lot of natural barriers.” You have mountains, rivers that are violent and vicious, and areas that are so far away that you don’t really have people crossing.
There were 400,651 apprehensions at the southern border in fiscal 2020.
In March of 2021, the Border Patrol apprehended 172,331 migrants who had made illegal crossings into the United States, the highest monthly total since 2006. This was an extraordinary increase and — combined with 78,444 apprehensions in January and 101,028 in February — puts us within 50,000 of having as many apprehensions in the first three months of this year as in all of 2020 combined.
According to a March 2021 University of Chicago survey, 56 percent of the people surveyed disapprove of the way Biden is handling immigration. The percentages were even higher for Republicans (89 percent) and independents (67 percent).
Walls provide security
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) says border walls are “xenophobic and racist,” but the four presidents who preceded Biden all built border walls — and two of them were Democrats.
Countries all over the world have recognized the need for border walls.
Even Omar’s fellow members of Congress have erected walls around the Capitol when additional security was needed.
After the Jan. 6th attack on the Capitol, Congress erected a 7-foot fence topped with barbed wire outside the Capitol building and a second, wider fence around the larger Capitol complex at a cost of more the $19 million.
The White House also has security walls. The 6-foot-6 inch fence around the White House was replaced a few years ago by a 13-foot-tall fence with wider and stronger fence posts.
Even Biden has recognized the need for border walls. When he was a senator, he voted in favor of the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which authorized the construction of 700 miles of border fencing and vehicle barriers. So did the junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama.
History of walls on the southern border
The United States began the installation of border fences which were intended to restrict the movement of unlawful immigrants and drugs in 1993, when former President Bill Clinton constructed a 14-mile barrier between San Diego and Tijuana.
By the end of former President George W. Bush’s time in office, the southwest border had 278 miles of 15-to-18-foot-tall pedestrian fence and 248 miles of vehicle barrier, for a total of 526 miles of physical barriers.
The Obama-Biden administration built an additional 128 miles of border wall.
Although in the popular political imagination Donald Trump is responsible for building the border wall, the fact is a total of 654 miles of border barriers had already been constructed when Trump became president, including 354 miles of barricades to stop pedestrians and 300 miles of primary vehicle fencing. Trump built 350 miles of replacement or secondary barriers and 15 miles of new primary barriers where none had existed before.
Biden considers building more wall
Biden is now walking back his proclamation statement that his administration will not build border walls.
Smugglers send groups of illegal crossers through the gaps to overwhelm the agents. When agents leave to intercept or apprehend one group, another one dashes across.
According to reports, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas explained that the president has ended funding based on Trump’s emergency declaration, but this leaves room for work on areas of the wall that need renovation and “particular projects that need to be finished.”
The political situation in congress has changed too. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has decided that he will not vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster, and the Democrats can’t do it without his vote. That means that the Democrats are not going to be able to stop the Republicans from blocking Democratic legislation in the Senate by filibustering.
Biden isn’t going to be able to accomplish anything legislatively without at least some cooperation from Republicans — and constructing more border wall would be a good step towards achieving that objective.
A wall won’t stop illegal crossings entirely, but it should be a central part of an overall immigration fix. It’s a functional deterrent against the most reckless forms of border crossing, and it is a barrier against sudden future surges of mass migration.
Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an executive branch immigration law expert for three years. He subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years. Follow his blog at https://nolanrappaport.blogspot.com.
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