If Biden halts border wall, it could cost taxpayers billions, CBP chief warns
President-elect Joe Biden is promising that border wall building won't continue under his administration, but with hundreds of miles under construction, the head of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is warning that shutting down construction could cost taxpayers billions.
The Trump administration this week marked 450 miles of wall built at the southern border, and acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan told reporters earlier this week that a total of 800 miles is funded.
"So in addition to the 450 that we’ve already got on the ground, we’ve got funded 350 miles of wall system to go in the ground," he said. "The overwhelming amount of those miles, that funding, the contracts have already been awarded."
However, the wall faces a grim future under Biden, who has promised that not "another foot" would be built. It seems unlikely, therefore, that he will allow a new 350 miles - nearly equal the amount of wall built under his predecessor.
But Morgan warned that canceling projects at this point would cost the U.S. taxpayer.
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"It’ll cost taxpayers billions of dollars, billions of dollars in settlement fees," he said. "We’re going to walk away from areas of the wall that have already been constructed."
"There are going to be some areas where, let's say we’ve already started to dig a trench and put some rebar in there, we’re actually going to have to stop and pay extra to have them remove the rebar and fill in the trench," he said.
He added that there is another 270,000 tons of steel bollards that have either been produced or are being produced.
"We’re either going to have to pay them additional money on top of the money we’ve paid for the materials to either destroy what we paid them for already or to store it," he said.
He also warned that it would cost thousands of jobs for workers if the brakes were put on the project.
The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment from Fox News.
Other estimates have challenged Morgan's claim. The Washington Post reported that it could actually save money -- approximately $2.6 billion -- according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates.
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U.S. Army Corps estimates show there will be about $3.3 billion in unused funds in the project’s accounts on Jan. 21. "Demobilization" fees that could be charged to the government once contracts are canceled would be approximately $700 million.
Speaking to reporters, Morgan did not address the report directly but acknowledged broadly that there had been some "spin" suggesting it wouldn’t be costly to cancel the contract.
Morgan also said that canceling the wall would have a "dramatic" impact elsewhere, including on how CBP and other law enforcement are able to do their jobs in stopping illegal immigration and drug smuggling across the border.
CBP was in contact with the Biden transition, Morgan said, and he was hoping that even if the wall itself was stopped, other parts of the wall system could still be built.
"There are attributes well beyond the steel and concrete that are critical -- whether that's lighting, access roads or state of the art technology that's a part of that wall system -- we’re hoping that they listen to us -- that at a minimum that needs to continue," he said.