Biden argues his hands were tied with border wall funds

President Biden on Thursday defended plans for his administration to add to the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border while insisting that the wall is not an effective immigration tool.

Biden responded to questions from reporters in the Oval Office after the administration announced it was waiving certain environmental laws to allow for construction along a busy sector of the border in Texas.

“The money was appropriated for the border wall. I tried to get them to reappropriate, to redirect that money. They didn’t. They wouldn’t,” he said. “In the meantime, there’s nothing under the law other than they have to use the money for what it was appropriated for. I can’t stop that.”

Biden was asked whether he thought the border wall was effective and responded “no.”

The administration announced late Wednesday it had waived roughly two dozen federal laws to allow for border wall construction in Starr County, Texas, where roughly 245,000 migrants have illegally crossed the border this fiscal year, according to The Associated Press.

The wall will be built using funds appropriated by Congress in 2019, before Biden took office.

As a presidential candidate, he was adamantly opposed to the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border during the Trump administration. 

Democrats more broadly have been outspoken opponents of the border wall, which was a signature campaign promise made by Trump during the 2016 campaign and has been adopted by Republicans as a cornerstone of their immigration policy.

Trump pounced on the about-face.

“Will Joe Biden apologize to me and America for taking so long to get moving, and allowing our country to be flooded with 15 million illegals immigrants, from places unknown,” he wrote Thursday in a Truth Social post. “I will await his apology!”

Biden aides Thursday repeatedly sought to highlight that the funding being used to build several miles of additional wall was allocated before Biden took office.

“Fact: Congress is forcing us to do this under a 2019 law. Fact: We called on Congress to cancel these funds. They didn’t. We follow the rule of law,” deputy press secretary Andrew Bates wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “Congress needs to stop delaying the effective border solutions @POTUS proposed.”

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas pushed back against criticism that the announcement represented either a policy shift or a contradiction for the administration.

“There is no new Administration policy with respect to border walls. From day one, this Administration has made clear that a border wall is not the answer. That remains our position and our position has never wavered. The language in the Federal Register notice is being taken out of context and it does not signify any change in policy whatsoever,” Mayorkas said in a statement published on X.

—Updated at 6:40 p.m.

Tags andrew bates Donald Trump Joe Biden