The White House says it is “not finishing” President Trump’s border wall after Homeland Security gave the go-ahead to complete unfinished sections of the barrier in Arizona.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre balked at the notion that President Biden is reversing course after vowing not to build “another foot” of the wall.
“We are not finishing the wall,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said Friday. “We are cleaning up the mess that the prior administration made. We are trying to save lives.”
More than 450 miles of barriers were built under Mr. Trump and Homeland Security had plans for nearly 300 additional miles, but Mr. Biden halted all construction on his first day in office.
That left gaps, including four holes in the fence near the Morelos Dam Project along the Colorado River near Yuma, Arizona. Migrants have streamed through those gaps in recent months.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Thursday authorized Customs and Border Protection to close those gaps.
In a statement announcing the authorization, Homeland Security said the gaps present “safety and life hazard risks” to migrants, who risk drowning in the Colorado River to reach the holes in the fence, and to agents who have to rescue them.
“This project supports CBP’s and DHS’s priority to deploy modern, effective border measures and also improving safety and security along the Southwest Border,” Homeland Security’s announcement said.
Mr. Biden during the 2020 campaign pledged specifically that “there will not be another foot of wall constructed on my administration.”
Ms. Jean-Pierre on Friday stood by Mr. Biden’s earlier criticism of the structure, saying that a wall spanning the entire border “is an ineffective use of taxpayer dollars.”