U.S. Sen. James Lankford fired another round in his border war with the Biden administration on Wednesday, this time in the form of a 36-page report that says the U.S. is spending $3 million a day — and probably more than $2 billion total — not to complete contracts already awarded for construction of former President Donald Trump’s “wall” between the United States and Mexico.
“It is absolutely absurd that Americans are paying contractors to guard metal gates that President Biden refuses to install,” Lankford said in a press release. “Stubbornly refusing to spend money approved for the wall is not ‘executing’ the law. It’s ignoring the law and ignoring the very real national security concerns posed by illegal entry across our very open southern border.”
Lankford, a senior member of the Senate committee overseeing Customs and Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is among those blaming the Biden administration for a sharp rise in illegal border activity over the past six months.
Facing a 2022 reelection challenge from the right, Lankford has been hitting the administration over immigration and border security on an almost daily basis.
“Our Border Patrol agents are doing their best to secure our border, but they need additional barriers, roads and technology to help keep us safe,” Lankford said Wednesday.
Citing documents obtained by Senate Republican staff, Lankford said the Biden administration has spent as much as $2 billion on costs associated with suspending or terminating contracts. That includes the cost of securing materials delivered to construction sites but not used.
Lankford also criticized the administration for not being more forthcoming about its intentions for the suspended portions of the barrier, and he pointed out that the original 60-day suspension to “study” the situation has now stretched to six months.
The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately answer a request for response.
As president, Trump promised to build a wall along the United States’ southern border — and make Mexico pay for it — although the exact extent of the wall remained somewhat vague.
According to Lankford’s report, about 700 miles of border fences, walls and other barriers were built between 1960 and 2017. It’s unclear how much of that was replacement construction.
During Trump’s four-year administration, according to the report, about 738 miles of primary and secondary walls were funded, with most of that replacing existing structures.
Of that, 453 miles were completed; 211 miles were under construction when Biden stopped work in January; and 74 miles had not been started.
The entire U.S.-Mexico border measures nearly 2,000 miles.
The report says $16.4 billion was allocated for border wall construction during the Trump presidency, with most of that coming through the Department of Defense.
A large share of that was diverted by the Trump administration from defense appropriations for other purposes, an action Democrats unsuccessfully challenged in court.