Mother Jones releases a report examining the cost overruns of the border wall system construction project from March 2018 to present day, with a specific focus on contracting deals and controversies involving Fisher Sand and Gravel.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) states that CBP violated the purpose statute by listing goods and services in their supplemental FY 2019 appropriations that were not made available, including “consumables and medical care” and “establishing and operating migrant care and processing facilities.” The funding was instead used to pay for dirt bikes, canine supplies, computer equipment, and other enforcement-related expenditures. GOA directs CBP to either obligate the account to its appropriate purpose or report a violation of the Antideficiency Act as required by law.
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals hears arguments over House Democrats’ lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s use of defense funding to build the wall along the southern border. The case is one of several lawsuits filed against the Trump administration over its emergency border wall funding.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper, in a memo to acting Pentagon Comptroller Elain McCusker, directs McCusker to “release funding associated with 22 currently deferred projects within the United States” totaling over $500 million to “enable the execution” of border wall construction. To fill the hole left by restoring the funds, Esper substitutes overseas projects appropriated by Congress, including $274 million worth of military construction projects in Europe intended to deter Russia.
During a 9th Circuit Court hearing, attorneys for the Sierra Club, multiple states, and the U.S. House of Representatives argue that the Trump administration has overstepped its constitutional authority by using $3.8 billion in Pentagon funds for the border wall. The plaintiffs argue that the executive branch cannot defy congressional control of the power of the purse “by concocting some fake national emergency to justify the military construction of what amounts to a civilian project.” The three-judge panel took the matter for review.
Nineteen states filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Northern California over the administration’s diversion of $3.8 billion from the Pentagon toward the border wall. The states argue that the diversion of money already allocated by lawmakers toward a border wall violates Congress’ appropriation powers.
Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Adam Smith and the committee’s top Republican, Rep. Mac Thornberry, warn the Pentagon that it is undermining its own funding by diverting billions for border construction. The Pentagon’s plan has triggered a “rare Republican opposition to one of Trump’s priorities.” Rep. Thornberry warned Defense Secretary Mark Esper that Congress would place greater restrictions on the Pentagon’s ability to move money around to meet military needs.
U.S. Senator Krysten Sinema criticizes the Trump administration’s plans to divert $3.8 billion from defense programs, stating it jeopardizes “the safety and security of Arizona service members and Arizona jobs.” The cuts include $156 billion for the F-35 program, including aircraft housed at the Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix and the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma. $1.3 billion will also be cut from the National Guard and Reserve Equipment budget, which primarily funds the 162nd Test Center in Tucson.
The Trump administration prepares to divert $3.8 billion from Defense Department programs to fund 177 miles of border wall. $1.6 billion comes from the Overseas Contingency Operations fund, a war account created after 9/11 to fund emergency requirements. The other $2.2 billion comes from the base budget of the Department – funds that would otherwise go to Army vehicles, Navy aircraft and ships, and Air Force aircraft.
During a rally, President Trump claims “redemption money [from ‘illegal aliens’] is paying for the wall.” Multiple experts on immigration policy tell CNN there is no such thing as “redemption money” in the context of immigration. The wall is being paid for with a combination of US taxpayer money Congress has allocated to the project and funding that the administration has diverted from the military.
The Defense Department is expected to announce the allocation of billions of additional Pentagon funds for the border wall. The budget proposal expected to be released this week requests $2 billion for wall construction. Because the request is to ostensibly help combat drug smuggling, the Pentagon’s “284” counter drug authority allows the Defense Department to build barriers, lighting, and roads for the purpose of countering drug trafficking.
The Tohono O’odham Nation announces they were not consulted prior to the blasting of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, despite having sacred sites in the area. The Defense Department awarded $891 million to contractors for construction in the area. The existing barrier has already reduced populations of some of the rarest animals in North America, disrupted pristine wilderness areas, and exacerbated flooding. Proposed construction in Texas will cut through federal wildlife refuges, a state park, the National Butterfly Center, and more indigenous gravesites.
The Washington Postreports that long-term maintenance for the $18 billion “wall system,” including its roads, lighting, sensors, and other advanced technology, “could put taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars.” DHS officials dismiss these concerns, citing the project as “enduring infrastructure” that will last far into the future. Just over 110 miles are reported to have been completed.
In a column published by CNN’s website, retiring Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost calls on Congress to tackle the “humanitarian crisis” at the border through updated immigration law and additional resources for CBP and its partners. Provost notes that at the peak of the 2019 child and family migration crisis CBP was overwhelmed on a daily basis, as agents spent 60% of their time processing, transporting, feeding, and providing medical care to those apprehended instead of patrolling and securing the border. The current state of border security, Provost says, is not sustainable.