Joe Biden suspends wall construction on U.S. southern border – Latest News, Breaking News, Top News Headlines

Days before Joe Biden assumed the presidency of the United States, construction crews worked quickly to complete the wall ordered by President Donald Trump at Friendship Park, a binational park that then-first lady Pat Nixon inaugurated in 1971 as a symbol of cross-border friendship.

Biden ordered a “hiatus” from all wall construction within a week, one of 17 decrees he issued on his first day in office, including six related to immigration.

The order leaves unfinished projects worth billions of dollars along the border, but still under contract, after Trump worked fervently last year to build fences over 720 kilometers (450 miles), a goal who said he had served eight days before leaving office.

As of Jan. 15, the government had spent $ 6.1 billion of the expected $ 10.8 billion on contracts, according to a Democratic Senate aide with knowledge of the contracts and who spoke on condition of anonymity because details have not been released. made public. The total amount of the contracts would have extended Trump’s wall to 1,069 kilometers (664 miles).

Biden, trying to keep his promise not to build “another foot,” gave his government two months to determine how much it would cost to cancel the contracts and if the money could be used for other purposes. The Senate adviser noted that costs would be negotiated with contractors and that the government would seek to spend whatever is left on border-related issues, such as roads, lights, sensors and other technology.

Publicly, the Trump administration indicated that it had allocated $ 15 billion for the wall. The Senate aide said it had actually been $ 16.45 billion as of Wednesday, of which $ 5.8 billion was appropriated by Congress and the remainder diverted from the Defense and Treasury departments.

The Trump administration notified the Senate aide on January 14 that it was going ahead with a $ 863 million contract, but it was not awarded.

The Army Corps of Engineers, which has awarded the wall contracts with money from the Department of Defense, said Thursday that it instructed teams not to install any additional barriers and to limit activity in the coming days to what is “necessary to prepare safely at each site for the suspension of work ”.

John Kurc, an activist who posts videos of dynamite blasts by construction crews, said he saw a dynamite charge being planted Wednesday afternoon in Guadalupe Canyon in far eastern Arizona as it was carried away. carried out Biden’s inauguration in Washington.

Heavy machinery has been working on roads dug into rocky mountain slopes, poking holes for posts on land owned by the Bureau of Land Management.

Activists in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas, which is the busiest area for illegal crossings and is near Nogales, Arizona, saw idle trucks and construction equipment Thursday.

But in San Diego, crews of workers were replacing a steel fence Thursday with towering, closely spaced posts and steel plates at the top that rise 30 feet (9 meters), said Dan Watman of Friends of Friendship Park. del Parque de la Amistad), a group that promotes public access to the cross-border park.

Contractors began last week, said Watman, who was briefed on the project during a December conference call with Border Patrol agents but received no explanation. The agency referred the questions to the White House, which had no comment.

Trump said that the border wall would be “practically impenetrable” and that Mexico would pay for it, something that never happened. While the wall is much more formidable than the barriers it replaced, it is not unusual for human smugglers to guide people over or through it. Some portions can be cut with readily available power tools.

Despite Trump’s boastfulness, Border Patrol officials have said the wall was never intended to block everyone, but rather to slow their progress.

José Edgar Zuleta, whose business selling religious jewelry in the Mexican city of Puebla collapsed due to the coronavirus pandemic, broke through two walls at Parque de la Amistad in October with a special staircase. He moved through the undergrowth in a heavily guarded area for about half an hour before being stopped. His 21-year-old son, who was ahead of him, was detained hours later.

Zuleta agreed to pay the traffickers $ 19,000 for him and his son, but only if they made it to the United States, where they had hopes of working as gardeners in Southern California. He returned home to his wife and mother, and he could try again.

The cross-border park has been the scene of yoga classes, concerts and countless press conferences, including one in 2018 in which then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy that led to the separation of thousands of children from his parents on the United States border with Mexico.

An old bullring and ocean-view restaurants surround the Mexican side, while in the United States there are scrubby wetlands.

Years ago people passed bakery products, kissed and shook hands across a wire fence. Watman remembers passing tools around in 2007 to plant a cross-border garden that is still there.

Since 2012, after the construction of a double wall in the park, the Border Patrol has opened a door many weekends to let up to 10 people pass at the same time to chat with those who are on the Mexican side.

SLSCO Ltd., based in Galveston, Texas, won the contracts to build double walls in 22 kilometers (14 miles) in San Diego. Company spokeswoman Liz Rogers said the work at Parque de la Amistad is independent and is being done by another company.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments next month about whether the government illegally transferred billions of dollars from the Department of Defense to build the wall after the federal Congress refused to authorize the money Trump requested, which led to a government shutdown that lasted 35 days in 2017.

It is not clear at this time whether Biden will adopt Trump’s position before the Supreme Court. The government report is due February 11.

For his part, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador celebrated Biden’s decision to suspend construction of the wall but, in defense of Trump, noted that since the 1990s, US presidents have built border barriers. He showed a graph to demonstrate his claim.

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