President Joe Biden has been denounced by Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for promoting a “cruel policy” by allowing the construction of 20 new miles of former President Donald Trump‘s U.S.-Mexico border wall.
A filing published in the U.S. Federal Registry by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Thursday describes an “acute and immediate need” to construct the physical border barrier while announcing that 26 environmental, public health and cultural preservation laws would be waived to resume the project in Starr County, Texas.
While Biden and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas have both since insisted that the president’s policy on the wall has not changed and claimed that the construction was due to a decision made by Trump, the current administration’s waiving of laws to allow construction has been condemned by progressives including Ocasio-Cortez.
“The Biden administration was not required to expand construction of the border wall— and they certainly were not required to waive several environmental laws to expedite the building,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement emailed to Newsweek on Thursday. “The President needs to take responsibility for this decision and reverse course.”
“A wall does nothing to deter people who are fleeing poverty and violence from coming to the United States,” she continued. “Walls only serve to push migrants into more remote areas, increasing their chances of death. It is a cruel policy.”
Newsweek reached out for comment to the White House via email on Thursday night.
When asked whether he thought border walls “work” before a White House meeting earlier in the day, Biden replied, “no.” He argued that his hands were tied on the matter as the money to build the section of wall was appropriated in 2019 and could be used for no other purpose.
“The money was appropriated for the border wall,” said Biden. “I tried to get to them to reappropriate it, to redirect that money. They didn’t. They wouldn’t. And in the meantime, there’s nothing under the law other than they have to use the money for what it was appropriated. I can’t stop that.”
Mayorkas also issued a statement insisting that “there is no new Administration policy with respect to border walls,” claiming that “the language in the Federal Register notice is being taken out of context.”
“The construction project reported today was appropriated during the prior administration in 2019 and the law requires the government to use these funds for this purpose, which we announced earlier this year,” Mayorkas said.
“We have repeatedly asked Congress to rescind this money but it has not done so and we are compelled to follow the law,” he added.
Trump chimed in, accusing Biden of breaking “every environmental law in the book” to continue construction on the wall. The ex-president demanded an “apology” from Biden for having previously spoken out against his “beautiful border wall.”
Update 10/05/23, 10:20 p.m. ET: This article has been updated to add context and change the headline to reflect that the border wall was ordered by Trump.