Border Patrol officials pushed Biden admin to build a wall before funding lapsed: sources

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials made the case to the Department of Homeland Security to go forward with a border wall project in South Texas that is now causing a political headache for the administration — warning that funding was going to lapse and the project would benefit an area plagued by drugs and violence.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced this week that he was using his authority to waive 26 federal laws to go forward with the construction of barriers and roads in Starr County, citing an “acute and immediate need” in order to prevent illegal entries in the Rio Grande Valley Sector.

The construction is funded by the fiscal year 2019 DHS appropriations bill, which specifically funded wall projects in the RGV Sector and which DHS is required to use for its appropriated purpose. The announcement was made in June. 


The funding was due to lapse at the end of the fiscal year, sources told Fox News, and CBP officials made the case that building the wall was critical in order to not lose the funding to build in this specific area because it is a high traffic area for migrants drugs and violence. Law enforcement has even recovered explosive devices in the area.

Mayorkas testifies

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Officials were also keen on the project because it also includes technology including ground sensors that are needed for Border Patrol agents to detect migrants. DHS has highlighted that it includes lighting, access roads and other technology that the administration does generally support.

Separately, a press release in June outlining the initial project highlighted additional fence-replacement projects in Arizona and California, but it is unclear if those will require the same waiver moves as they are repair projects rather than new construction.


The administration has taken heat over the construction, both from Democrats and Republicans, for allegedly changing course from their initial position in 2021, where the administration firmly opposed wall construction and moved to end Trump-era construction.

DHS officials and President Biden have furiously denied that there is a change in policy afoot, arguing that their hands were tied by the 2019 appropriation.

“I was told I had no choice,” Biden said Friday.

Mayorkas said Thursday “we have repeatedly asked Congress to rescind this money, but it has not done so, and we are compelled to follow the law.”

A DHS spokesperson noted that the construction includes detection technology, lighting and access roads, and that it has worked throughout the summer with stakeholders and federal agencies.

“This is not a policy decision. The construction project you’re reading about today was appropriated during the prior administration, in 2019, and the government is legally required to utilize these funds for their appropriated purpose,” the spokesperson said Thursday. “The Administration repeatedly called on Congress to cancel or reappropriate remaining border barrier funding and instead fund smarter border security measures, like border technology and modernization of land ports of entry, that are proven to be more effective at improving safety and security at the border.” 

Joe Biden walking with border officials

US President Joe Biden speaks with US Customs and Border Protection officers as he visits the US-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, on January 8, 2023.  (JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

But that has been questioned by lawmakers and former officials. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, said the administration “was not required to expand construction of the border wall — and they certainly were not required to waive several environmental laws to expedite the building.” 


Former DHS Secretary Chad Wolf also dismissed the idea that Mayorkas was forced into the decision.

“You don’t waive 26 environmental laws to build the wall immediately if you don’t believe in it,” he said. “This is the Biden Admin trying to have it both ways.” 

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