EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — The Department of Homeland Security will terminate all border-wall contracts within the Border Patrol’s Laredo and Rio Grande Valley sectors, the agency announced Friday.
Additionally, U.S. Customs and Border Protection will continue conducting biological, cultural, and natural resource surveys on areas where barrier plans exist. These areas are also within the Laredo and Rio Grande Valley sectors and within the El Centro (California) Sector.
DHS said none of the environmental activities involve border barrier construction or permanent land acquisition and that all actions are consistent with the National Environmental Policy Act.
The environmental planning covers projects funded with DHS appropriations from the Fiscal Year 2018-2021, including areas where no barrier construction or data collection has started.
“CBP will also conduct comprehensive and targeted outreach with interested stakeholders, including impacted landowners, tribes, state and local elected officials, and federal agencies,” DHS said in a news release.
In late July, CBP announced the first two cancellations of border wall contracts issued during the Trump administration for the South Texas city of Laredo.
Both contracts were worth over $500 million and awarded to different contractors to build 31 miles of the border barrier on the southern edge of Laredo and Webb County. But no actual construction or land acquisition was ever carried out.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat whose hometown is Laredo, told Border Report at the time that the contracts “were a little easier to terminate because there was no work done, no digging.”
CBP officials said then that the agency “intends to engage in environmental planning concerning these barrier projects, including taking certain actions consistent with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other statutes.”
The Biden administration halted border wall construction, which began during the Trump administration.
The White House reiterated on Friday that it continues to call on Congress to cancel all remaining border-wall funding. Instead, the White House wants Congress to fund “smarter border security measures” like technology and the modernization of land ports of entry, which it says prove more effective at improving border safety and security.
“Until and unless Congress cancels those funds, the law requires DHS to use the funds consistent with their appropriated purpose, and beginning environmental planning activities is part of the Department’s plan to do so,” DHS said in a news release.