U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is accepting bids of up to $400 million per task for the construction of barriers and other infrastructure along the U.S.–Mexico border.
According to the solicitation notice posted on Dec. 20, the five-year Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity contracts involve the design and construction of “border barriers, anti-climb features, enforcement zones, roads, gates, bridges, drainage control, cattle guards, lighting, detection systems, cameras, towers, and communication fiber.”
Construction costs for each contract range from $50 million to $400 million.
Offers on the contracts are due by Jan. 10.
Minding the Gaps
The solicitation’s posting comes on the heels of the Biden administration’s Dec. 13 announcement that it will commence work to close gaps along the border wall.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, those gaps include seven in the Border Patrol’s Yuma, Arizona, sector and one in the El Paso, Texas, sector—an area that includes western Texas and New Mexico.
New work will also be performed in the San Diego sector, which covers western Arizona and part of eastern California, and the El Paso sector.
In 2020, then-presidential candidate Joe Biden promised that, under his administration, there would “not be another foot” of border wall constructed.
That policy appears to have shifted, however, as the number of illegal border crossings continues to reach record highs.
According to CBP data published in October, U.S. Border Patrol encountered 2,378,944 illegal immigrants at the border during the 2022 fiscal year—the highest amount ever recorded for a single year.
Interestingly, the total number of fiscal year 2022 encounters that’s displayed on the CBP website—last updated on Nov. 14—reflects a lower count of 2,214,652.
CBP officials didn’t respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for clarification about the discrepancy.
The year also reportedly saw a record number of border crossing deaths, although the administration hasn’t officially published the data for either of Biden’s first two years in office.
Title 42 in Limbo
Worries over illegal immigration have increased in recent months with the fate of Title 42—a policy that has allowed the quick expulsion of certain asylum seekers at the border—hanging in the balance.
Invoked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in March 2020, Title 42 is a public health emergency order that was designed to prevent the introduction of contagious diseases into the United States.
While the policy has been employed at the border under both the Trump and Biden administrations, the latter announced its intention to terminate the policy in April, sparking multiple legal challenges from those who wish to keep the policy in effect.
In November, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled that the policy was “arbitrary and capricious” and gave the government until Dec. 21 to terminate its use. Earlier this week, however, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts granted a stay on that order while the high court considers a request from 19 Republican-led states to reverse it.
The Biden administration, responding to those states’ request on Dec. 20, reiterated its desire to end Title 42, holding that it was no longer necessary as a public health measure, but requested that the policy’s expiration be delayed until after Christmas for operational purposes.
Among those who would like Title 42 to remain in effect is El Paso’s Democratic Mayor Oscar Leeser, who said on Dec. 19 that approximately 20,000 illegal immigrants were just waiting for the policy to end so they could cross the border and enter the city.
“We’ve been talking to some of the partners in Mexico, and we’re talking also to the Border Patrol and those are the numbers that have been fed back to us,” Leeser said. “The shelters in [Ciudad] Juarez are completely full today, and they believe there are about 20,000 people ready to come into El Paso.”
The Biden administration, while maintaining that the border is “under control,” has also acknowledged that a post-Title 42 surge of illegal immigrants is likely should the policy be terminated.
However, on Dec. 13, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the administration is preparing to handle that influx but noted that action from Congress would be necessary to create a long-term solution.
“The Biden–Harris Administration is committed to pursuing every avenue within our authority to secure our borders, enforce our laws, and stay true to our values as we build safe, orderly, and humane processes,” Mayorkas said in a statement. “We will provide additional updates as work continues. A real solution can only come from legislation that brings long-overdue and much-needed reform to a fundamentally broken system.”