Joe Biden Faces Tough Decisions Regarding Wall Construction on Mexico Border

Joe Biden Faces Tough Decisions Regarding Wall Construction On Mexico Border

Los Ébanos, Texas – The US government has been trying to take over Pamela Rivas’ land to build a border wall there since before Joe Biden was vice president.

From a rock, Rivas can see the Mexican territory, on the other side of the Rio Grande (Big for the Americans). He spent his childhood fishing in the river. The government wants to cut his property in two with a steel fence that would close his access to the river and proposes to pay only for the strip of land where the wall would be erected. Meanwhile, the land is constantly being watched by Border Patrol agents who cross it without its consent.

“We have been fighting in court for 12 years,” says Rivas. “It is devastating. This is my family’s inheritance ”.

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Biden promised to end the construction of a wall on the border with Mexico. But when he takes office in January, he will have a lot of tough decisions to make as the outgoing Donald Trump administration has been accelerating construction in recent weeks. On the other hand, he is accompanied by a certain skepticism related to his past policies towards the border walls.

As a senator, Biden voted to seize private land in 2006. And he was vice president of a Barack Obama administration that continued to build fences and sue landowners on the border. Under the 2006 law, 650 miles of barriers were built through 2011.

Pamela Rivas observes the Rio Grande from her land on the US-Mexico border on November 16, 2020. Rivas resists efforts by the US government to build a wall on her land, which would deprive her of access to the river where she fished as a child.

In the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, where Rivas and several dozen landowners resist wall construction, Obama built more barriers than Trump.

“We’re a little less innocent now than we were last time,” said Ricky Garza, an attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project, a nonprofit that represents Rivas and other property owners.

Biden will inherit a massive wall-building plan that was accelerated in the last year. Spaces are being cleared by blasting and destroying cacti and other aspects of Arizona and New Mexico habitat. Almost all of the construction carried out under the Trump administration has been done in wildlife reserves and indigenous territories that already belonged to the state. Although the works are considered “replacements” of other already existing ones, barriers for vehicles are being eliminated and in their place huge steel posts and much more restrictive lights are installed.

The Trump administration says it completed 400 miles and will have completed another 450 miles by the end of the year. There are more than two dozen projects underway and contracts signed with at least five construction companies, worth $ 7 billion, according to government figures.

The Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees military-funded works that Trump gained access to through a national emergency declaration, “will not speculate on what action the government may or may not take” and “expects contractors to continue the works according to the terms of their contracts, ”declared spokesman George Jozens in November.

After the elections the Department of Justice continued suing landowners in Texas. It faces the same obstacles other governments encountered when deciding who to sue. Some of the land where you want to build walls have dozens of potential heirs scattered across the country.

The work has been complicated and on one occasion a federal judge accused the government of making her “waste the resources of the court.”

“They don’t bother to find out if someone died,” said Judge Micaela Álvarez, appointed by former President George W. Bush Jr. “There are cases where someone is mentioned and a month or two later, they come back and tell you that that person died two, three or four years ago.”

The week after the election, the state sued Minnie G. Saenz, a 78-year-old widow who was with her son when she learned of the lawsuit from the Associated Press.

“They are in a hurry, but not in a hurry to pay, but to build,” said the son, Leonel Sáenz Jr.

Biden will have a hard time stopping works in progress.

In August he promised that he would not build “not a foot” more of walls on the border and that he would “withdraw the lawsuits” that are in progress. A spokeswoman for Biden’s transition team, Jennifer Molina said in a statement released this week that the president-elect would nullify Trump’s declaration of national emergency and “invest in real solutions” at the border. Things like technology and better infrastructure at ports of entry.

Molina did not say how Biden would stop building walls.

If the works in progress are stopped, the steel and cement already acquired at those sites would be left behind. But if you allow them to continue, you could expose yourself to being accused of not keeping your promises.

The contractors, for their part, could demand compensation, according to the Customs and Border Protection service. It is not clear how much those steps would cost as the government did not disclose the contracts.

Trump’s rhetoric around building the wall, often accompanied by criticism of immigrants, complicated the once-bipartisan consensus on border security. Obama and Bush Jr. built walls and added agents to the Border Patrol, as well as watchtowers, airships and helicopters. They also added new surveillance technology.

“If you look at it together, this is much more sensible,” said Kerlikowske.

Some residents and activists say that the suspension of the construction of the wall should be part of a broad repudiation of what they describe as the “militarization” of the border. They say the government should use the money to improve public health and infrastructure, especially in light of the havoc the coronavirus is wreaking in border communities.

“You have to abandon the idea that we should somehow seal the border,” said Garza of the Texas Civil Rights Project.

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