Biden Administration Axes Border Wall Contracts for Laredo Area
"The people of Laredo stood their ground and we won," said Tricia Cortez , executive director of Rio Grande International Study Center , which advocates for environmental protection of the Rio Grande River . "The cancellation of these two contracts is a huge nail in the coffin for this entire misguided project."
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced earlier Friday that it was ending two contracts in Laredo where construction had not yet begun. No land acquisitions had begun in that section.
The move comes less than a month after Trump visited part of the border downstream from Laredo in Hidalgo County and blasted the Biden administration for not continuing to build sections of border wall there. Standing in front of a section of "rotting and rusting" wall built a mile from the border, Trump, a Republican who was turned out by voters last fall but has hinted that he may run again in 2024, said President Joe Biden , a Democrat, needed to finish what Trump started.
The Biden administration had already halted all construction of the barriers started by Trump and was evaluating which projects could be ended entirely. More contracts could still be canceled like the Laredo section.
" 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," DHS said in a statement.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection , about 738 miles of barriers were planned — that includes refurbishing or rebuilding existing walls and fences along the length of the entire 2,000-mile U.S. border with Mexico . Of those, about 453 miles were completed with 373 of those miles replacing existing fences and walls. Only about 17 miles were constructed in Texas , all within the Rio Grande Valley sector.
The section stopped in Laredo would have stretched 31 miles from El Pico Road just northwest of Laredo to the Webb County southern tip. It would have cost an estimated $564 million . Opponents of the wall warned it would have marred the city's riverfront park, Tres Laredos Park and other natural areas that need preservation.
"Our community accomplished the impossible and stopped what many claimed was 'a done deal'," said Carlos E. Flores co-founder of a group called the No Border Wall Coalition .
While the project is ending, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday touted his own efforts to begin clearing land for border fencing near Eagle Pass .
"New Border Wall Construction Begins near West Texas Town ," Abbott said in a Twitter post late Friday.
(c)2021 the Houston Chronicle
Visit the Houston Chronicle at www.chron.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.