Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 8, 2022

Contact:

Paulo Lopes, (202) 849-8398, plopes@biologicaldiversity.org

Documents: Army Corps Decided to Resume Border Wall Construction 10 Days Into Biden Term

WASHINGTON— Public records show the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided to resume border wall construction just 10 days into the 60-day pause President Biden imposed when he took office last year. The records, obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity under the Freedom of Information Act, make clear that the Army Corps’ career staff was committed to continuing construction of Trump’s border wall.

Environmental groups sent a letter today asking Congress to investigate the Army Corps’ and the Department of Homeland Security’s decisions to resume border wall construction in violation of Biden’s proclamation to pause it.

“It’s disgraceful that the Army Corps ignored President Biden and continued following Trump’s racist calls for more border wall,” said Paulo Lopes, an attorney at the Center. “Congress should investigate this rogue agency and hold folks accountable. The records make clear that it was unnecessary to build more border walls along the Rio Grande. But the Army Corps had its own agenda and chose to defy the president’s wishes.”

The documents were released in response to a lawsuit filed by the Center. They show that the Army Corps used a narrow emergency exemption to resume border levee wall construction in Texas’ Lower Rio Grande Valley. The president’s proclamation allowed wall construction for “urgent measures needed to avert immediate physical dangers.”

In a January 2021 memorandum to the Secretary of the Army, Army Corps’ Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon claimed that earthen levees in Texas were unsafe and needed “a concrete flood wall to serve as a retaining wall.” But the records also reveal that the Army Corps repeatedly ignored recommendations from its own experts to instead repair the earthen levees, including through a tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

In 2020 and 2021 Congress forbade federal funds from being used for border wall construction at the Eli Jackson Cemetery, a historic landmark in Hidalgo County, Texas. The Army Corps ignored Congress and its own experts and completed a border levee wall next to the cemetery earlier this year.

Before President Biden was elected, he promised there would be no additional border wall construction under his administration.

“Communities, wildlife and pristine public lands have been decimated by Trump’s wall. Now the Biden administration has flouted Congress and walled off a historic cemetery,” said Lopes. “Congress needs to rein in the Army Corps and put an end to border wall construction once and for all.”

RSBorder_wall_levee_construction_Scott_Nicol_FPWC-scr
Border wall levee construction in Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Texas, August 2021. Photo credit: Scott Nicol. Images are available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

center locations

Programs: