Homeland Security Department officials on Friday officially canceled contracts for 31 miles of border wall construction that had been planned for Texas, saying the barriers were “not necessary” to save lives or help the environment.
Construction hadn’t started on the two segments, and the federal government hadn’t yet acquired new land that would have been necessary to build the wall there, the department said.
President Trump left office with about $2 billion in congressionally allocated wall money unspent, though most of the money had been earmarked and put under contract. Friday’s decision marks the first cancellation of those projects.
The Biden administration said it’s part of a broad review of the full $2 billion.
“DHS continues to review all other paused border barrier projects and is in the process of determining which projects may be necessary to address life, safety, environmental, or other remediation requirements and where to conduct environmental planning,” the department said in announcing the cancellations.
All wall construction has been paused under an order from President Biden. The Government Accountability Office says the pause is legal, but eventually Mr. Biden must spend the money on border wall construction unless Congress rescinds the cash.
More than 460 miles of barrier was erected on Mr. Trump’s watch. Homeland Security had about 300 more miles in the works when Mr. Trump left office.
Mr. Biden has shut down much of that by revoking Mr. Trump’s border emergency declaration and returning money Mr. Trump had siphoned from Pentagon accounts. But the money allocated by Congress is a trickier situation.
For now, the Biden team has promised a go-slow approach, saying it will complete environmental reviews the Trump team said would hinder construction.
The cancellation comes as the new administration faces an unprecedented surge at the border, and as the state of Texas has said it plans to start building its own border wall as the federal effort stalls.
Republicans, including Mr. Trump, say the wall could help direct the flow of people, giving Border Patrol agents a better chance at catching people trying to cross illegally. The Washington Times reported this week that 270,000 migrants have managed to evade capture so far this fiscal year.