Premium

Is the Biden administration about to enter the wall-building business?

Desperate times call for desperate measures, especially if one can couch them in terms like “plugging the gaps.” According to ICE notes reviewed by the Washington Times, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told Customs and Border Patrol agents that the Biden administration might soon restart construction on the border wall.

Agents had complained that the unfinished project had all but paved the roads for human traffickers and cartel smugglers to enter the US with impunity. With all other options not working out, Joe Biden might have to quietly go back to Donald Trump’s plans:

In a conversation with ICE employees last week Mr. Mayorkas was asked about his plans for the wall and he said that while Mr. Biden has canceled the border emergency and halted Pentagon money flowing to the wall, “that leaves room to make decisions” on finishing some “gaps in the wall.”

Mr. Mayorkas, according to notes of the ICE session reviewed by The Washington Times, said Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the wall, has submitted a plan for what it wants to see happen moving forward.

“It’s not a single answer to a single question. There are different projects that the chief of the Border Patrol has presented and the acting commissioner of CBP presented to me,” the secretary said.

“The president has communicated quite clearly his decision that the emergency that triggered the devotion of DOD funds to the construction of the border wall is ended. But that leaves room to make decisions as the administration, as part of the administration, in particular areas of the wall that need renovation, particular projects that need to be finished,” he said.

Actually, agents argued that the halt to the construction of the wall literally paved the road for smugglers and traffickers. DHS and the Department of Defense had built the road system prior to completing the wall itself, and …

The new wall is more than just the steel slats. Officials describe it as a system, one that includes technology to allow agents to detect incursions and high-speed roads to allow them to reach trouble spots faster so that agents can interdict anyone who does make it over. …

The county sheriff said smugglers were using the road as their own highway, helping them get their illegal cargo, whether people or drugs, deeper into the country faster.

“We just built roads for the cartels,” Sheriff Mark Dannels said.

In some ways, the half-built wall system is worse than none at all. If you missed it last week, a local report from New Mexico’s KOB showed the problem in detail. The gaps Mayorkas referenced have become funneling points, and CBP can’t cover them all well enough to interdict the flow. Smugglers and traffickers are using a brute-force strategy to flood these zones, allowing most of the flow to get past the patrols — a strategy made easier by the gaps left after Joe Biden’s executive order:

“It was just a kick in the gut to use because they were so close to finishing our area — and now we’re left with this three quarter mile gap,” said Johnson. “That’s created a funneling point for all the traffic in this area right into the middle of our ranch.”

Just beyond the unfinished wall, sits a largely abandoned Mexican village with several vacant buildings. It’s a prime spot, Johnson says, for smugglers.

“It’s just a staging area… so they can cross in these gaps,” said Johnson.

If the White House wants to put an end to this flood-the-zone strategy, it has to plug those gaps — at least. That will require a full retreat from his oft-repeated pledges to abandon border walls and offer more humane assistance at the border. Those are the strategies that have created the border crisis now, with facilities getting overwhelmed, COVID-19 risks shooting into the stratosphere, and no end in sight to the massive surge from Central America.

Just how much can Biden do to restart border construction with progressives dogging his every step? Actually, there has been little evidence at all that progressives want any part of this fight. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez demagogued Trump for four years at the border, with her crying jag at the wall and her accusations that CBP agents made her feel unsafe. Since January, however, AOC has barely issued a peep at the “kids in cages” under Biden’s charge, and neither have many other progressives.

That may well be why Mayorkas is now talking about “plugging the gaps” in the border wall. Congress has already appropriated that money, which technically means Biden is legally obligated to build out the rest of the wall anyway. (The GAO is investigating Biden’s stoppage of construction at the moment, don’t forget.) Right now, it’s a safe bet that progressives would trade the rest of the wall to avoid any more “kids in cages” photos depicting 700% overcrowding in a Democratic administration. They might even trade a return to “remain in Mexico” to avoid those optics, both of which can be eventually explained away as a temporary measure to “fix” the system at the southern border. For the moment, progressives need the bleeding to stop, and the only sure way of achieving that is to follow Trump’s plan, without Trump’s divisive rhetoric.

Mayorkas appears to be rehearsing the spin in these ICE notes. And that’s fine, as long as Biden and Mayorkas restore the order at the border that they themselves destroyed by setting all of the incentives for the massive tsunami of border-crossers.