The Biden administration has awarded a $229 million contract to SLSCO Ltd. for border wall construction in Starr County, Texas.
What makes this decision particularly contentious is that SLSCO Ltd. is a company that has previously been involved in building walls for both the Trump administration and Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
According to San Francisco Current on Saturday, November 4, this choice has left many questioning President Biden’s commitment to his campaign promise that “there would not be another foot of wall” built during his tenure.
Starr County, situated in the rural and flood-prone region of Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, currently has only a few short stretches of border fencing. The contract issued to SLSCO Ltd. involves the construction of approximately 20 miles of new border wall.
What’s raising eyebrows is the fact that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) waived several environmental and historic preservation laws to expedite this construction, a stark departure from Biden’s initial stance on the border wall.
Under the Trump administration, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) typically issued press releases when awarding wall contracts. However, no such press release accompanied this award, drawing further scrutiny.
The Texas Observer discovered the contract on the website usaspending.gov, and a CBP spokesperson later confirmed its legitimacy.
Long-time anti-wall activist Scott Nicol criticized the decision, stating, “Clearly DHS under the Biden administration has no more respect for border residents than it did under the Trump administration.”
He suggested that the funds should be used to mitigate the damage done by existing border walls rather than spending hundreds of millions on more construction. This move has sparked discussions on whether Biden had any choice in the matter.
The administration argued that Congress had allocated funds for a border wall in the Rio Grande Valley in 2019, and these funds had to be spent before they expired, regardless of Biden’s stance on border fencing effectiveness.
While this may justify using the funds, it doesn’t explain the decision to waive critical environmental and preservation protections.
Environmental advocates argue that there is no legal requirement to waive laws protecting border communities and wildlife. They believe that these waivers were issued at the administration’s discretion, and they urge President Biden to reverse them.
It’s important to note that constructing the border wall requires compliance with environmental laws, which could potentially eat into the allocated funds.
Nicol and other critics suggest that these funds could be used to repair the damage caused by Trump’s border wall instead of constructing new barriers.
This decision has not only left environmentalists concerned about the impact on local wildlife and ecosystems but has also raised questions about the administration’s commitment to its campaign promises.
Both DHS and the White House have not responded to requests for comments regarding this controversial move.