Republican lawmakers are adamant about completing Donald Trump's expensive pet project.
On Jan. 20, President Joe Biden signed an executive order that halted construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall, Donald Trump's longtime pet project, calling it a waste of time and resources.
"Building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border is not a serious policy solution. It is a waste of money that diverts attention from genuine threats to our homeland security," Biden said.
Since then, Republican lawmakers have pushed back with misleading or outright false arguments, including debunked claims that it will stop drug smugglers — who already use elaborate tunnel systems to transport goods — and suggestions that stopping construction is somehow a threat to nature.
Here are some of their most curious claims.
Wall materials wasted
GOP lawmakers toured the border earlier in April to take photos and push claims of a Biden-created crisis — a supposed swell of asylum seekers attempting to cross into the country.
Several lawmakers used the opportunity to pose next to piles of unused wall construction materials left behind when building was halted, bemoaning the fact that they were sitting gathering dust.
On April 19, Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) tweeted a video of himself in front of piles of steel beams.
"The decision to stop construction of the wall means materials are going to waste & construction workers lost their jobs overnight. It’s embarrassing that the US government would abandon a project to secure our borders & protect citizens, but that's what @POTUS decided to do," he said.
On April 14, Rep. Scott Franklin (R-FL) tweeted a similar video showing him next to piles of metal. "Rather than finish the wall & secure our border, the president wants to play political games with American lives," he wrote.
And on April 16, Rep. Fred Keller (R-PA) posted his own video on Twitter, lamenting the stacks of unused materials left to sit in the hot sun.
"That's money sitting here that nothing's happening with," he said in the video.
Of course, the unused materials would have gone to a border wall that was both useless and unnecessarily costly itself, due to a number of bungled maneuvers by the prior administration.
Trump’s border wall was costing taxpayers billions more than the initial contracts awarded, due to a lack of competitive bidding to keep costs low for taxpayers, according to records obtained by the Texas Tribune and ProPublica. In several cases, the outlets noted, "The money [for the contracts was] coming from military counter-narcotics funding."
Further, the construction materials Republicans have complained are going to waste might have been somewhat ineffective anyway: A 2019 Department of Homeland Security report showed that a steel slat prototype being built at the border could be breached with a common industrial saw.
A DHS spokesperson responded to news of that report by telling NBC News at the time, "While the design currently being constructed was informed by what we learned in the prototypes, it does not replicate those designs. The steel bollard design is internally reinforced with materials that require time and multiple industrial tools to breach, thereby providing U.S. Border Patrol agents additional response time to affect a successful law enforcement resolution."
Ending construction is bad for the environment
In early April, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) claimed on the conservative network First TV that immigrants trampling through the desert to get to the United States were bad for the environment, seemingly suggesting the the wall would prevent such destruction.
"For all of those that are concerned about the environment, we have an environmental crisis because the migrants are running across the border, they're trampling through the ecosystem," said Blackburn.
She also suggested that unfinished portions of the border wall would lead to flooding issues.
"We have roads that have been cut for putting in the wall, and what is going to happen when the monsoons come? Those unfinished roads are going to wash," she said. "There is going to be all of this rock and dirt from the mountains that are going to end up in these beautiful farmlands and on these ranches."
Blackburn isn't the only one to use the threat of environmental damage to lobby for the wall's construction.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed a lawsuit in federal court on April 12, claiming Biden's decision to halt building was made without proper environmental impact assessments.
"Defendants [Biden administration officials] have embarked on multiple environmentally disruptive policies without performing even cursory environmental analysis," he said.
He added, "It's not just about the six to eight pounds of trash per person crossing the border that we're talking about. We're also talking about the population increases generally and what impact is that having on our overall environment."
The Center for American Progress, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, said in a February post that attempts to argue for the wall by demonizing immigrants as environmental abusers were not based in science and were little more than xenophobic fearmongering.
"The claim that immigration is to blame for America’s environmental problems is so absurd, racist, and out of the mainstream that it is easily debunked and tempting to ignore," the group wrote. "The scientific community, and the little research that has been conducted in this area, resoundingly refutes the premise."
The wall will stop drug smugglers and traffickers
Republicans have argued repeatedly that the border wall would keep drug smugglers and human traffickers out.
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) tweeted on March 31, "Pres. Biden's policies are responsible for the massive increase in human trafficking, smuggling, and drug running. The fence and technology construction have stopped and our borders are now open."
"Biden's orders to halt the construction of the wall is being exploited by smugglers and traffickers," Rep. August Pfluger (R-TX) tweeted on April 3.
"We need to get back to building the wall along the southern border, & we need to close the loopholes that illegal aliens use to come into this country. Smugglers & illegal aliens use false claims of asylum to gain entry to the U.S. That must be stopped," tweeted Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) on April 17.
But a border wall would not be adequate to stop cartels and smugglers that have already developed complex methods of transporting goods across the border, including through elaborate tunnel systems.
Human traffickers also typically come through legal channels of entry, as Jamie Gates, a professor at Point Loma Nazarene University noted to NPR — if they aren't operating domestically already.
"Our research shows that the trafficking problem in San Diego County is, by far, more local, domestic than it is across the border," Gates said. "In our study, we found 80% of the survivors, 450 survivors that we interviewed, were born and raised in the United States. And of those 20% that were born outside the United States, very few of them were actually trafficked across the border."
The wall prevents unlawful immigration
A key GOP argument in favor of the border wall is that it prevents immigrants from coming into the country without documentation.
A large percentage of undocumented people are simply immigrants who have overstayed their visas. As Dudley L. Poston Jr., a sociology and demography professor at Texas A&M University in College Station, wrote for the Associated Press, "More than two-ﬁfths of ... undocumented immigrants, or almost 4.5 million, are visa overstayers. They entered the U.S. with legal passports and legal visas but either stayed past their visa expiration dates or otherwise violated the terms of their admission into the U.S., perhaps by accepting employment."
He added, "Most ﬂew in legally from Asia, Europe and other continents, and entered at major airports in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Houston and elsewhere. Trump’s wall won’t be high enough to keep them out."
Even those in the country without documentation — who Poston said are a boon to the country economically and pose no threat to U.S.-born Americans like so many Republicans claim — likely passed through a legal port of entry using false paperwork.
The GOP has largely dismissed Biden's $2.25 billion jobs and infrastructure plan as wasteful and have condemned him for including funding for "human" infrastructure, such as caregiving and affordable housing, as well as money for clean energy and to upgrade the electric grid.
Many of them have in turn argued that the border wall qualifies as infrastructure, and should therefore be a main priority for the administration.
"I'd say the Border Wall is infrastructure too," Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC) wrote in a Facebook post on April 7, sharing a story about Biden's proposal.
On April 8, Rep. Mary Miller (R-NC) posted a similar message on Facebook, writing, "The Democrats aren't even trying to hide that their 'infrastructure' plan is full of anything but infrastructure! The Border Wall and the Keystone XL Pipeline are actual pieces of infrastructure that deserve our attention."
As Arielle Atherley and Cedric Lawson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights wrote in 2017, the border wall could technically be considered infrastructure — but that doesn't necessarily mean it's worth the time, money, or effort Republicans suggest the country spend on it.
"Considering the vast infrastructure needs of the United States, the 21st century should not be an era of spending on divisive and unwanted infrastructure like the border wall," they said, citing a need for crucial repairs to other structures that have long gone without upgrades, at times resulting in deadly disasters.
"At a time we should be investing in projects that deliver community benefits, environmental justice, racial equity, and good jobs, putting precious resources toward building a border wall is a clear step in the wrong direction."
It stops people from spreading the coronavirus to Americans
Republican lawmakers including Inhofe have also pushed racist rhetoric in recent weeks claiming that the wall will keep immigrants carrying COVID-19 from entering the country.
"One of President Joe Biden’s first official acts of his presidency — suspending the border wall funding and construction — resulted in a compromised southern border and a humanitarian and security crisis," Inhofe said in a Facebook post on April 10.
He continued, "The current administration has prioritized a radical rollback of concrete, commonsense policies for the sole purpose of sticking it to Republicans, all while thousands of people pour across the southern border. We know a number of these people are coronavirus positive as well, adding additional pressure to our communities still recovering from the pandemic."
In addition to echoing white supremacist talking points about disease-carrying immigrants, Inhofe's claims are not rooted in reality.
The Associated Press reported that there is no evidence showing immigrants are bringing COVID-19 to the United States en masse. Those who do test positive while in border custody are quarantined away from others.
Additionally, the outlet noted, many border state governors have actually complicated the problem themselves by loosening pandemic restrictions despite the ongoing threat.
As Dr. James Castillo, public health authority for Cameron County, Texas, told the outlet, "It's not trivial. Is it the biggest source of infection to our whole community? No, it’s maybe one source, and there's a lot of different sources. And it's a shame that we’re going to create new sources by dropping the restrictions."
In a March statement, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas confirmed that the Health and Human Services Department officials were also testing unaccompanied immigrant children apprehended at the border, and holding them for possible quarantine prior to being placed with a U.S.-based sponsor.
As CBS News noted, the Office of Refugee Resettlement within HHS has required unaccompanied immigrant children to undergo quarantine if they test positive for the coronavirus, or otherwise test negative twice before they are released.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.