Washington, DC

Today, the Biden administration announced plans to halt border wall construction along the Southwest border of the U.S. The plan, which will be carried out by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense, fulfills President Biden’s promise to end the diversion of funds for the border wall, and outlines steps the administration will take to address life, safety and environmental concerns.

Statement from Jamie Rappaport Clark, President & CEO, Defenders of Wildlife:

“We applaud the Biden administration for taking this important action to stop the continuing harm caused by the border wall. The reversal of funding and halt of construction projects are great steps, but there is still hard work ahead. We are optimistic that the administration will address the significant safety and environmental challenges and call on Congress to provide the funding required to repair the devastating damage. Defenders of Wildlife looks forward to seeing reconnected communities – of both people and wildlife – along the southern border soon.”

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the prior administration planned to spend over $15 billion on wall construction, and diverted over $10 billion of those funds from military projects and other sources. The Department of Defense (DOD) is terminating all border wall projects using the diverted funds, and returning the remaining, unobligated funds to their original sources.

In addition to harming human communities, border wall construction has destroyed widespread areas of the nation’s most valuable wildlife habitat, including within national wildlife refuges, national monuments and wilderness areas. The U.S.-Mexico border runs through deserts with scant and unpredictable water supplies, where many animals live a precarious existence. An impenetrable barrier that stops them from finding the resources they need can threaten their survival. If critical parts of the border are not reopened to wildlife, the U.S. will lose substantial ground in efforts to restore endangered species and conserve natural habitat in the borderlands.

Under the Trump administration, Congress provided DHS with funding for border barrier projects, which the agency is still legally required to use consistent with their appropriated purpose. Therefore the Biden administration says it will use the remaining funds consistent with their appropriated purposes for necessary clean-up of construction sites including drainage remediation, erosion control and material disposal. Appropriated funds will also be used for mitigating environmental damage caused by border wall construction. This includes repairs to the low-lying regions in Hidalgo County, Texas which faces threats of serious flooding, and remediation of dangerous soil erosion caused by wall construction in San Diego.

For those projects that are not urgently needed to avert immediate physical dangers, DHS says it plans to engage in a comprehensive review that includes detailed environmental impact analysis and remediation and will engage with border community residents, local elected officials, tribal communities and environmental nonprofits and advocates.

The Biden administration continues to call on Congress to cancel funds it previously appropriated for border barrier projects. Additional funding from Congress will be needed for comprehensive remediation of the damage to borderlands and border communities. 

Defenders of Wildlife is celebrating 75 years of protecting all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With a nationwide network of nearly 2.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit defenders.org/newsroom and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.

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