Biden says he had to use Trump-era funds for the border wall. Asked if barriers work, he says ‘No’

President Joe Biden speaks as he holds a meeting to receive a briefing on Ukraine in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Thursday defended his administration’s decision to waive 26 federal laws in South Texas to allow for construction of roughly 20 miles of additional border wall, saying he had no choice but to use the Trump-era funding for the barrier to stop illegal migration from Mexico.

Asked if he thought such walls work, he said flatly, “No.”

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The new construction was announced in June, but the funds were appropriated in 2019 before the Democratic president took office. Biden said he tried to get lawmakers to redirect the money but Congress refused, and the law requires the funding to be used as approved and the construction to be completed in 2023.

“The money was appropriated for the border wall,” Biden said. “I can’t stop that.”

Still, the waiving of federal laws for the construction — something also done when Republican Donald Trump was president — raised questions, particularly because Biden condemned border wall spending when he was running for the White House. One of Biden’s first decisions moves as president was to halt the use of emergency funds to build the wall along the Southern border and ended the national emergency there.

The decision comes as the Biden administration is struggling to manage increasing numbers of migrants at the border and spreading out in the larger U.S. Democratic leaders in New York, Chicago and Washington are asking for federal help to handle the growing numbers of migrants in their cities. Administration officials on Thursday announced they’d resume deporting migrants back to Venezuela, as part of their effort to slow arrivals.

Republicans, for their part, are hammering the president as ineffective on border policy, with some suggesting they would not fund any more efforts in Ukraine without a substantial increase to border security funding.

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