Defense, Homeland Security departments halt border wall construction

(UPI) - The departments of Defense and Homeland Security have stopped construction work on the southern border wall as of Friday, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Defense, Homeland Security departments halt border wall construction

Among executive orders signed Wednesday by President Joe Biden after his inauguration was a pause in construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

"In addition to stopping work at the DoD-funded border barrier sites, [U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] has also stopped work at the DHS-funded sites for which we are executing border barrier construction," Army Corps of Engineers spokeswoman Raini Brunson told UPI on Friday.

All border barrier projects that USACE is working on are "in compliance with the President's proclamation. Only construction activity that is necessary to safely prepare each site for a suspension of work will occur over the next few days," Brunson said.

Biden's order, which reverses one signed by former President Donald Trump, calls for the DoD and DHS secretaries to assess the legality of the construction project's funding and contracting methods, and to pause the transfer of funds to build a wall.

"It shall be the policy of my Administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall," Biden's order reads in part. "I am also directing a careful review of all resources appropriated or redirected to construct a southern border wall."

Trump announced plans for the controversial wall during his 2016 presidential campaign, claiming that Mexico would underwrite it, although then-Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto denied the plan.

Construction began under a presidential executive order announced in January 2017.

About 450 miles of the wall, including reinforcement of existing barriers, was built along the 1,954-mile border when Trump visited Alamo, Texas, near the end of his term on Jan. 12, 2021.

Trump also declared a national emergency over illegal immigration at the border in 2019. Biden's pronouncement on Thursday terminated that order.

On Friday, the Biden administration also began a halt to most deportations, which was announced earlier this week by Acting DHS Secretary David Pekoske.

Both moves fulfill Biden campaign promises to soften the previous hardline stance on U.S. immigration policy.