President Joe Biden announced Thursday that he had informed Congress he was rescinding the national emergency declaration on the U.S.-Mexico border that was put in place by former President Donald Trump in February 2019 to redirect billions of dollars for construction of a wall along the southern border.
“I have determined that the declaration of a national emergency at our southern border was unwarranted,” Biden wrote in a letter to congressional leaders. “I have also announced that it shall be the policy of my Administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall, and that I am directing a careful review of all resources appropriated or redirected to that end.”
Under the emergency declaration signed in February 2019, Trump was able to divert $600 million from the Treasury Department and $6.1 billion from the Defense Department to the Department of Homeland Security for border wall construction.
Trump continued the proclamation in February 2020, which allowed him to divert an additional $3.8 billion from the Pentagon for border wall construction. The former president had made building a wall along the southern border a key part of his agenda.
Biden first announced that he was going to halt the emergency declaration on his first day as president. The president has signed several executive orders aimed at unwinding Trump’s hard-line immigration policies, including establishing a task force to reunify children separated from their parents or guardians at the border under the former president’s “zero tolerance” policy.
But the Biden administration has also said that because of the coronavirus pandemic, authorities will turn away migrants coming to the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum.
“The vast majority of people will be turned away,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday.
The statement suggests the White House will, for now, continue the Trump administration’s partial closure of the border to asylum seekers under Title 42 of the United States Code. The provision allows the government to turn away or expel any migrant without a court hearing, citing public health security amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Contributing: Matthew Brown, USA TODAY; Rafael Carranza, Arizona Republic
Reach Rebecca Morin at Twitter @RebeccaMorin_