The Biden administration on Friday announced plans to return to the Pentagon roughly $2 billion in unspent military construction funds seized by the Trump administration for a wall on the U.S. – Mexico border — after conducting a full review of the former president’s controversial signature immigration project.
The money will be used on 66 delayed projects on installations in 11 states and 16 countries, including schools for military families, hangars, housing and training facilities, according to the administration.
It’s the balance available to return to the Defense Department from the roughly $14 billion in funds identified by the Biden administration in April that Trump diverted from other parts of the government toward the wall project.
And while Biden pledged as a candidate to build “not another foot” of wall on the border, the administration said Friday that funds approved by Congress for “border barrier projects” this year will be spent by the administration until lawmakers cancel or reroute the spending.
“Although most of the funds used for the border wall were diverted from other purposes, Congress provided DHS with some funding for border barrier projects. DHS is legally required to use the funds consistent with their appropriated purpose,” the administration said.
For now, the administration plans to prioritize the cleanup of military construction sites at the border and environmental mitigation work as it determines how to suspend that remaining funding absent congressional action.
As for the private land seized by the Trump administration through eminent domain actions, the Biden administration will continue to review whether acquired land “remains necessary” for cleanup and environmental work.
The Department of Homeland Security will “work to return” land no longer needed by the administration “to its prior orders,” according to a fact sheet — a commitment that appears to fall short of advocates’ calls for full return of seized border plots and a commitment to pay for any damages.
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