President Biden informed Congress on Thursday that he has rescinded Trump’s 2019 national emergency declaration that redirected billions in order to fund construction of the former president’s beloved border wall with Mexico.
In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the president said Trump’s declaration was unnecessary and the taxpayer dollars it diverted will no longer be allocated to fund the wall. Biden also promised a review of “all resources appropriated or redirected” to building the wall.
“I have determined that the declaration of a national emergency at our southern border was unwarranted,” Biden wrote in the letter. “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.”
“I hereby report to the Congress that the national emergency… is terminated and that the authorities invoked in that proclamation will no longer be used to construct a wall at the southern border,” Biden concluded.
The emergency declaration allowed Trump to divert $600 million in Treasury Department funds and $6.1 billion from the Defense Department to Homeland Security to pay for the border wall.
Trump then renewed the emergency proclamation in February 2020, diverting an additional $3.8 billion of American taxpayers’ money to a project that both candidate and President Trump promised would be paid for by Mexico — a lie that he habitually repeated. Trump’s demands for wall money drove a partial government shutdown in late 2018 and early 2019. After Congress refused to allocate that money, Trump used the emergency declaration to get it anyway, a move that shouldn’t be forgotten when Republicans inevitably accuse Biden of “executive overreach.”
Biden first made his intentions on the matter known via a proclamation on his first day as president. Earlier this month, Biden bucked another of Trump’s anti-immigrant policies by creating a task force to reunite children who were separated from their parents.
But, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Biden does plan to continue Trump’s policy of turning away asylum seekers, at least until his administration can establish what Press Secretary Jen Psaki called a “humane” process. “The vast majority of people [at the border] will be turned away,” Psaki told reporters Wednesday.
The militarization of America’s border with Mexico did not begin with Trump, however. It is a decades-old policy course pursued by multiple administrations—from Nixon to Clinton to Bush—and it will take much more than hitting the “undo” button on Trump’s harmful policies to fix. But this, at least, is a start.