SAN DIEGO (AP) – In the days before Joe Biden became president, building crews worked quickly to finish Donald Trump’s wall in an iconic transboundary park overlooking the Pacific Ocean, inaugurated by then-First Lady Pat Nixon in 1971 as a symbol of international friendship.
On Wednesday, Biden ordered a “break” on all wall construction within a week, one of 17 decrees issued on his first day of office, including six on immigration.
The order leaving billions of dollars of work unfinished ̵
As of Jan. 15, the government spent $ 6.1 billion of the $ 10.8 billion on work it signed contracts to have performed, according to a Senate Democratic aide with knowledge of the contracts, who spoke on condition of anonymity because details has not been published. The full amount under contract would have expanded Trump’s wall to 1,069 kilometers.
Biden, who sought to fulfill a promise not to build “another foot”, gave his administration two months to decide how much it would cost to cancel contracts and whether money could be spent elsewhere. The Senate aide said fees would be negotiated with contractors and the administration would try to use what is left on related use at the border, such as roads, lights, sensors and other technology.
Publicly, the Trump administration said it secured $ 15 billion. Dollars for the wall. The Senate aide said it was actually $ 16.45 billion. Dollars from Wednesday, of which 5.8 billion. Dollars were granted by Congress, and the rest were diverted from the Department of Defense and Finance.
The Trump administration told the Senate aide on January 14 that it was moving forward with a $ 863 million contract, but it was not awarded.
The Army Corps of Engineers, which has awarded wall contracts with money from the Department of Defense, said Thursday that it asked crews not to install additional barriers and limit activity over the next few days to what is “necessary to safely prepare each site.” to a suspension. of work. “
John Kurc, an activist who publishes videos of dynamite blasts by wall construction crews, said he saw a dynamite charge set on Wednesday afternoon in Guadalupe Canyon in eastern Arizona, even as the inauguration played out in Washington.
Heavy machinery has crawled across roads cut into rocky hillsides and knocked open holes for positions at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management property.
Lawyers in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, the busiest area for illegal crossings, and near Nogales, Arizona, saw idle equipment Thursday.
But in San Diego, crews were out replacing a steel fence with impressive, closely spaced rods topped with flat steel plates that rise 30 meters (9 meters), said Dan Watman of Friends of Friendship Park, a group that promotes public access to cross- border park overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Entrepreneurs began last week, said Watman, who was briefed on the project in a conference call in December with Border Patrol agents but received no explanation. The agency referred questions to the White House, which had no immediate comment.
Trump said the border wall would be “almost impenetrable” and paid for by Mexico, which never happened. While the wall is much more formidable than the barriers it replaced, it is not uncommon for smugglers to lead people over or through it. Parts can be sawed with power tools sold in home improvement stores.
Despite Trump’s bravado, border guard officials have said the wall was never meant to stop everyone, but rather to slow their advance.
Jose Edgar Zuleta, whose business selling religious jewelry in the Mexican city of Puebla, dried up during the coronavirus pandemic, cleared two walls of Friendship Park in October with a special ladder. He moved through the brush in a heavily patrolled area for about half an hour before being captured. His 21-year-old son, who was walking in front of him, was picked up hours later.
The cross-border park has hosted yoga classes, concerts and countless news conferences, including one in 2018 with then-attorney Jeff Sessions to announce a “zero tolerance” policy that caused thousands of children to be separated from their parents at the border.
An old bullfight and sea-view restaurants surround the Mexican side; Wetlands scrub extends into the United States.
Many years ago, people walked past baked goods, kissing and shaking hands through a chain fence. Watman recalls that he passed tools back and forth in 2007 to plant a cross-border garden that still stands.
Since 2012, following the construction of a double wall in the park, Border Patrol has opened a gate many weekends for up to 10 people at a time to exchange words with them in Mexico.
SLSCO Ltd. in Galveston, Texas, won contracts to build double-walled carpets 22 miles in San Diego. Company spokeswoman Liz Rogers said work at Friendship Park is separate and done by another company.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments next month on whether the government illegally diverted billions of dollars from the Department of Defense to build the wall after Congress denied money that Trump sought, triggering a 35-day government shutdown in 2017.
It is unclear whether Biden will take Trump’s position before the Supreme Court. The government letter expires on 11 February.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador welcomed Biden’s decision to stop wall building, but noted in defense of Trump that U.S. presidents dating back to the 1990s built border barriers. He showed a diagram to prove his point.
Associated Press authors Nomaan Merchant in Houston, Anita Snow in Phoenix and Christopher Sherman in Mexico City contributed.
This story has been corrected to show that the border wall contractor SLSCO Ltd. says another company is doing the work at Friendship Park in San Diego.