“It’s ineffective,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters in Washington.
She was speaking one day after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it was planning to plug four gaps in the wall in southern Arizona.
The projects will “address operational impacts, as well as immediate life and safety risks,” the department said in a press release.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, a Biden appointee, authorized the projects, which will be funded by money Congress appropriated to the agency. His department in December 2021 said that it was going to plug “small gaps” in the wall as it wound down projects greenlit under former President Donald Trump.
Jean-Pierre on Friday insisted that the Biden administration was taking the step because of how construction was not complete in the area before the Trump administration ended.
“We are not finishing the wall. We are cleaning up the mess that the prior administration left behind in their failed attempt to build a wall,” she said.
A reporter noted that President Joe Biden, while campaigning ahead of the 2020 election, vowed that “not another foot of wall would be constructed” if he were elected.
“We are not finishing the wall,” Jean-Pierre repeated.
Wall Built Under Trump
After assuming office, Biden sent approximately $2.2 billion that had been allocated for wall construction back to the Department of Defense. The cost of ending the wall was approximately $72 million, Mayorkas has said.
Before the Trump era, about 650 miles of barriers were erected along the border, the bulk being constructed during the Obama administration. Over 118 miles of barriers were constructed during the Trump era, but the majority were replacing existing portions of the wall, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
During the Trump administration, the Department of Homeland Security said that “walls work,” including by preventing illegal immigrants from crossing the border. Building the wall was one of Trump’s promises during the 2016 campaign.
As proof to support her claim that the wall is not effective, Jean-Pierre cited Customs and Border Protection records that reportedly showed that bollard fencing, a type of barrier, was breached along the border over 3,200 times across two years, requiring millions of dollars in repairs.
Republicans generally favor adding to the wall along the border, while Democrats do not.
Several GOP lawmakers reacted favorably this week to the Biden administration’s announcement.
“I will always give credit where credit is due,” Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) said in a statement. “This is a great first step in protecting Arizona from the deluge of illegal immigrants flooding the border.”